No. 12 Maryland field hockey has consistently talked about turning penalty corner opportunities into goals heading into Thursday’s match with No. 6 Rutgers.
With around eight minutes to play in the third quarter and Maryland holding on to a one-goal lead, the Terps earned their sixth penalty corner of the match. Having already scored off one penalty corner on the day, the Terps were dominating and hungry for more.
Forward Bibi Donraadt inserted the ball precisely to midfielder Nathalie Fiechter, on her birthday, nonetheless. Fiechter set it perfectly for defender Maura Verleg, whose shot rocketed into the back of the net. The goal was Verleg’s — the transfer from the University of New Hampshire — third of the season and helped elevate the Terps to a 4-2 win.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the women,” head coach Missy Meharg said. “They followed the game plan the way we started, with such dominance and letting the ball do the work. Rutgers is an awesome team, just so proud of the women for playing so strong, playing so connected.”
With the sun peeking on and off through the clouds before eventually setting, Thursday night marked Maryland’s first evening game this season.
The Terps came out blazing and the urgency to win could be seen. Midfielder Kyler Greenwalt registered the first shot of the match just over one minute in, which was knocked away by the glove of Rutgers goalkeeper Gianna Glatz.
However, Rutgers responded almost immediately, earning the match’s first penalty corner about three and a half minutes in. Midfielder Milena Redlingshoefer’s shot was blocked before it could reach the cage, but the ensuing scrum in front of goalkeeper Noelle Frost resulted in another corner.
Although Frost made the initial kick save on Redlingshoefer, the bounce off her foot was left out for the taking. Midfielder Katie Larmour recovered the ball off her own corner and fired it between the legs of Frost. The goal gave Rutgers the early 1-0 lead with just over 11 minutes to play in the first quarter.
Maryland countered with its first penalty corner of the game with about five minutes to play in the first frame. Forward Bibi Donraadt’s corner had multiple passes before winding up on the stick of leading goal scorer and defender Riley Donnelly, but her shot was blocked before it could reach the net.
Rutgers earned its third corner of the game around a minute later, but Frost made the emphatic stop on Redlingshoefer. With each Maryland threat, it seemed as if Rutgers responded in a better way.
The first quarter wrapped up with Rutgers leading 1-0 on the scoreboard and having an advantage in both shots and penalty corners.
About halfway through the second quarter, Anna Castaldo knocked the ball off the foot of a Rutgers defender for the Terps second penalty corner. Donnelly’s shot deflected and was inches away from knotting the game at one, but it ultimately hit the post.
Maryland continued to threaten, earning another penalty corner with just under five minutes to play in the half. Off Donraadt’s insert, a drifting Verleg had a shot at the cage. It eventually reached the stick of midfielder Emma DeBerdine, who deflected it into the bottom of the net to even the game at one.
“This year has been a different year,” DeBerdine said. “Moving more into the midfield position, a little more of forward too ... getting goals is fun, so it was exciting. It feels good to get goals, it feels good to get away with those goals, help the team.”
Right before time expired in the second quarter, the Terps earned their fourth penalty corner of the game. Chaos ensued in the shooting circle, giving Maryland a penalty stroke with zero seconds remaining on the clock. Donnelly stuck the ball past a diving Glatz and into the right side of the net, to give the Terps a 2-1 halftime lead following the unlikely sequence.
The Terps came out hot again to start the third, earning their fifth penalty corner just over three minutes in. Donnelly had a great look at the cage for potentially her second goal of the game, but the shot was blocked by a Rutgers stuck before it could reach Glatz.
Minutes later, it was Verleg’s goal off the penalty corner that extended the lead to 3-1, and the Terps were in full control of this one.
“I’m super, super proud of Maura,” Meharg said. “She just had a new penalty corner that we put in and she nailed it first time so it’s the first time we’ve used it.”
Rutgers answered with its first penalty corner since the first quarter with about three and a half minutes to go in the quarter. Defender Liz Romano’s shot never reached the net, and the Maryland defense stood strong. After a video review, the Scarlet Knights were rewarded an ensuing corner. Romano’s shot was blocked again, and the Terps’ defense stood strong.
The Terps responded again, earning their seventh penalty corner of the match. Greenwalt’s shot was initially saved by Glatz, but a rebound popped out, and ensuing Maryland pursuit followed. DeBerdine, from the far post, pushed the ball past Glatz for her second goal of the day and extended the Maryland lead to three by the end of the third quarter.
“Right when I came off the field, [Brooke DeBerdine] was the first one to high-five me,” DeBerdine said about her sister who was out again today. “Definitely a lot of love and it was really sad that she wasn’t able to be out there today, but I know she’ll get back soon.”
The story remained the same to start the fourth, with the Terps earning two penalty corners in the first five minutes. Glatz made a nice diving stop on forward/midfielder Taylor Mason, keeping the deficit at three.
Rutgers responded with just under eight minutes in regulation, with Redlingshoefer rifling a goal past Frost off a penalty corner to make it 4-2.
The Scarlet Knights pulled their goalie late and continued to threaten, but it would not be enough to get the victory. Maryland snapped a three-game skid with a dominant performance, improving to 7-6 on the season.
“In the middle of the season we had some big wins on penalty corners and then we went dry for kind of the whole middle,” Meharg said. “It feels great.”
Three things to know
1. In the first half, Maryland and Rutgers exchanged quarters where each team controlled. While the teams counter-attacked each other consistently in the first quarter, it was Rutgers that got the better of the play and had the lead in the first quarter. The Scarlet Knights had five shots to the Terps’ three and three penalty corners to Maryland’s one in the first 15 minutes. Maryland responded with a dominant second quarter, scoring two goals to Rutgers’ zero. The Terps also had three shots and three penalty corners, while Rutgers had none in the quarter.
2. The Terps were extraordinary on penalty corners. Despite earning nine penalty corners against Michigan last weekend, Maryland had an extremely hard time generating goals. This was definitely not the case today, as three of Maryland’s four goals came off corners, with Donnelly’s penalty stroke coming immediately after a corner play. The Terps’ efficiency on penalty corners Thursday was otherworldly, converting at a 33% success rate.
“We work every day,” Meharg said. “Penalty corners is one of those things that if you just keep working and keep vigilant and, you know, don’t get caught up ... they were gonna fall. They were just gonna fall. We’ve been doing them in practice a lot, we do them with full squads, so you know all the women know where their rebounds are ... I’m not surprised.”
3. Riley Donnelly has been exceptional at penalty strokes all season long. Although a rare play in field hockey, Donnelly has stepped up to the plate for penalty strokes when the Terps have needed her all season. Capitalizing on her first two penalty strokes against Ohio State and Indiana, today’s goal pushed her to three-for-three on penalty strokes this season. The goal also extended her team-leading goal mark on the season to six, two goals ahead of anyone else on the roster.