With the game knotted at one deep in the third quarter and counter-attacking being the constant theme all day, there was a feeling that the next goal was going to be the difference-maker between No. 11 Maryland field hockey and No. 5 Michigan.
With just over a minute to play in the third period, forward Bibi Donraadt found herself alone in the middle of Michigan’s shooting circle. Michigan goalkeeper Anna Spieker made a dazzling kick save to keep the game knotted at one.
Seconds later, Michigan stormed into Maryland territory ready to take control of this match. Maya Gompper, deep in Maryland’s shooting circle, made a beautiful cross to a wide open Lora Clarke. Clarke chipped it past Maryland goalkeeper Noelle Frost to give Michigan the 2-1 lead, and the Wolverines never looked back.
With the win, Michigan clinched the outright Big Ten regular-season title, improving to 6-0 in official conference games. Maryland dropped to 4-3 in the standings and 6-5 overall with the loss.
“Obviously we’re disappointed in the outcome of the match, but the product couldn’t have been more resilient, more committed,” head coach Missy Meharg said. “The team followed the game plan to a tee...kudos to Michigan, another very good team.”
An overcast matinee in College Park, it took almost eight minutes before either team could get a shot off. Maryland took the first shot, but Michigan earned the first penalty corner of the game with just under three minutes to play in the first. Midfielder Kathryn Peterson inserted the ball for midfielder Anouk Veen, whose shot went in the back of the cage but was waved off because it was high.
Midfielder Emma DeBerdine had a potential golden chance for the Terps with around a minute left in the quarter, but Spieker made a nice kick save. DeBerdine’s opportunity wrapped up a scoreless, yet exciting first quarter.
Just five minutes into the second quarter, it was Michigan that broke through first.
Peterson accelerated into the left side of Maryland’s shooting circle with seemingly a great opportunity to make something happen. She flung the ball with her backhand towards the net in the direction of Frost’s cage. Forward/midfielder Sarah Pyrtek came into the middle of the circle and deflected it into the back of the net past Frost to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.
Maryland threatened in the waning minutes of the half, as forward Mayv Clune received a pass streaking deep into Michigan territory. Donraadt received a pass seconds later, but her shot flew just high of the net.
Other than Pyrtek’s goal, the first half was virtually even, with both teams firing off three shots, two of which were on goal.
To start the second half, Michigan came out firing, with forward Kate Burney registering a shot 25 seconds in. Ensuing shots followed, including a sequence with a shot by forward Katie Anderson, but Frost stood strong. The same sequence eventually resulted in Michigan’s second penalty corner.
While the Wolverines were not able to get a shot off at first, Pyrtek had a great chance to score her second goal of the match. Just like Peterson’s attempt in the first, the ball went in but the goal was waved off. The ruling was much to the dismay of the Michigan fans, while the Maryland bench roared in excitement.
Just over two minutes later, Clune was fighting a Michigan defender for the ball as a long pass trickled deep into Michigan territory. Clune won the battle, which paid dividends for the Terps. She moved into the shooting circle and crossed the ball to midfielder/forward Taylor Mason, who knocked it past a sliding Spieker to even the match at 1-1.
“We’re a family-oriented program,” Mason said. “So to be able to have our family and friends and support system join us, it just really adds to the hype before the game and during the game.”
As she has done all season long, Frost charged out of net to cut a Michigan player short and try and end a scoring chance from the Wolverines. However, as she did so, she lost her stick, and Michigan was still threatening. The stick-less Frost made yet another outstanding diving save, refusing to allow Michigan to take the lead.
With the third quarter dwindling down, Donraadt’s chance could have put the Terps in front. Instead, it was Clarke’s goal who put Michigan in front, and the quarter wrapped up with a 2-1 Michigan advantage.
Maryland came out with great urgency to start the fourth, but Brooke DeBerdine’s shot just about a minute in was blocked. Clune later was handed a green card, giving the Wolverines a player-advantage when the Terps needed it most.
With seven minutes to play in regulation, the Terps’ pressure was relentless. Clune made a spin move into the circle, but Spieker made a kick save. Donraadt picked up the rebound, but her shot from the top of the circle zinged off the post.
Maryland head coach Missy Meharg pulled Frost from the cage with just over three minutes of play to give the Terps a player advantage.
The pressure worked, as the Terps earned only their second penalty corner of the game with 42 seconds to play. Donraadt inserted the ball to defender Maura Verleg, whose shot was blocked before it could reach the net.
Verleg’s shot stood as the last opportunity of the match for the Terps, as Michigan pulled out the 2-1 victory. The Terps fall to 6-5 overall, but will get a chance at revenge against Michigan tomorrow. these two teams will meet again tomorrow.
“For today, I couldn’t be prouder of our team, and especially Taylor Mason for finishing on a beautiful goal,” Meharg said.
Three things to know
1. Michigan was able to score first by withstanding early punches from Maryland. The Wolverines responded greatly to each shot the Terps threw at them. Michigan dictated the tempo in the first quarter, earning the first penalty corner of the match and the only one of the half. While Veen’s shot was high, it set the tone for the responses to come. After DeBerdine’s shot at the end of the first quarter, Michigan responded with Pyrtek’s goal. The toughness and overall responsiveness from the Wolverines dictated the first half.
“You’d love to finish in these environments,” Meharg said. “Today was probably the best brand of hockey we’ve played all year...we’re right there, we’re right there. Michigan’s a great team, we need to take a look at it tonight in video and come out and just be more opportunistic.”
2. Noelle Frost was outstanding in the cage, yet again. Michigan could have taken the lead much earlier in this match than it did. The Wolverines fired off several shots in the third quarter, forcing Frost to make three saves. The sequence where she charged out of net to stop Michigan from scoring and made a stop without her stick just a few seconds later kept Maryland in the game. Frost has kept Maryland within reach all season long, and did so yet again today.
“[Frost] brings in so much seniority and high save ability to our squad,” Meharg said. “Today, I think both goals were deflections, and those are the hardest. She stopped every straight point shot that was at her with a trap and a hit.”
3. This is the match that counted for the Big Ten standings. Out of the field hockey back-to-backs the season, the first of the two matches have been the only ones that counted in the Big Ten standings. With Michigan in first at 5-0 and only two conference games left to play, this is the match that was going to decide if the Wolverines won the conference. Ultimately, it did, as the Terps fell to 4-3 in conference play and Michigan clinched the title.