Without a shot on goal in the match so far and facing the nation’s top defense, No. 13 Maryland field hockey may have felt that whichever team got on the scoreboard first was going to win the match.
On the team’s second penalty corner of the game with around six minutes to play, there was no better time than the present for the Terps to strike.
Forward Bibi Donraadt perfectly inserted the ball to midfielder Nathalie Fiechter, who set it softly for defender Maura Verleg. From there, Verleg, with her forehand, rifled the ball past Iowa goaltender Grace McGuire and into the back of the cage to give Maryland the one-goal lead.
With her arms straight in the air in excitement, Verleg knew her second goal of the season was a massive one, elevating the Terps to the 1-0 win.
“I’m so happy for the women,” head coach Missy Meharg said. “They’ve worked really hard. They don’t let the highs get too high or the lows get too low.”
Neither team generated any sort of real scoring opportunities in the early minutes of this one.
Iowa’s defense, which only gives up 0.4 goals per game, set the tempo for this one early. With that said, defenders Riley Donnelly and Rayne Wright also did a great job holding down the backfield for the Terps.
The first quarter ended scoreless, with only one shot registered between both teams combined.
The Hawkeyes were threatening just under a minute into the second quarter, as midfielder Ellie Holley intercepted the ball from midfielder Belle Bressler in Terps’ territory. Holley accelerated into Maryland’s shooting circle and took a backhand shot at the net. As seen from her so many times before this season, Frost made a brilliant kick save to keep the game tied at zero.
Iowa began to take control of the quarter from there, generating four shots in the first five minutes of the second frame.
With the tempo at a higher pace, Maryland earned its first chance of the quarter as midfielder Kyler Greenwalt received the ball in the shooting circle. Her attempt towards the net was blocked by sensational freshman midfielder Harper Dunne, who showed just a glimpse of why Iowa’s defense has been phenomenal this season.
The Terps earned the first penalty corner of the game with just under five minutes to play in the half. Donraadt received the pass off her own corner in point blank range, but could not chip the ball over McGuire.
With just over two minutes to go in the second quarter, midfielder/forward Taylor Mason had a look to put Maryland in front, but her backhanded shot flew just wide and high over the net.
Immediately after it was Iowa in transition, and Holley had yet another golden chance to make it a 1-0 lead for the Hawkeyes. It was Frost again, who made an incredible diving stick save to keep the game scoreless.
“They’re also a very great team and we have to respect them,” Frost said. “I think they did a good job trying to manipulate us, but we did well.”
The half would end at 0-0, but the tempo picked up greatly in the second quarter.
The third quarter started much like the first one did, with neither team generating a shot in the first five minutes of action.
Iowa finally earned its first penalty corner of the game with just under nine minutes to play in the quarter. Defender Maddy Murphy swept the ball into the frequently mentioned Holley, whose shot was blocked by Donnelly.
Minutes later, it was Verleg’s goal on the penalty corner that gave the Terps the 1-0 lead.
Frost continued to be sensational in goal, charging out of the cage to cut forward Alex Wesneski short of the opportunity to even the score. Her play helped keep the game at 1-0 at the end of the third frame.
“It’s definitely because of the training of [assistant coach] Marvin Bam,” Frost said on her instincts to excel outside of the cage. “He’s been working seriously with us, forcing us to come out, just break down the angle if they have a rebound or a shot, within, I’d say, six feet of us, he always wants us to come out.”
The Terps started off the fourth quarter with only nine players on the field due to green cards, including a delay of game. The Hawkeyes, however, were unable to capitalize.
Maryland continued their strong play, earning their third penalty corner of the game with about 10 minutes left. McGuire made a great glove save on the play, which could have extended the Terps’ lead to two.
Potentially the final blow for Iowa was a green card on forward Ciara Smith, forcing the Hawkeyes to play a player down with less than five minutes to play in regulation.
Iowa pulled McGuire with less than two minutes to play, but Maryland’s defense, and more specifically Donnelly, stood strong to close out the 1-0 win. The Terps now stand at 6-3 and will face Iowa again this Sunday.
“A number is a number,” Meharg said. “Yes, it is a great team, but for us to be in position to be ready to play in the tournament and get the automatic qualifier, we have to be able to play under the gun of a 1-0 game and we did that for many minutes. The fact that they’re number two is just a bonus.”
Three things to know
1. This match got off to a very slow start. In the first 15 minutes, there was only one shot combined from the two teams, coming off the stick of Maryland midfielder Brooke DeBerdine. This comes as no surprise, as Iowa does have the best scoring defense in the nation. However, it was hard for either team to generate chances, as both defenses stood strong in the early going.
2. Noelle Frost played her part in this one. The Hawkeyes had numerous chances to get the lead in the first half, firing off six shots, three of which were on goal. Frost’s two phenomenal saves in the second quarter kept the Terps in it, as Iowa easily could have easily been up a goal or two. Her strong play continued well into the second half, as her stop on Werenski ultimately saved the game. Frost finished the game with five saves and yet another dazzling performance in the books.
“Noelle recognizes when she’s going to have to make a save,” Meharg said. “The bottom line is Noelle knows when she’s going to need to make a save. So in that regard, she’s set up, she’s patient, she understands the angles, she works on it daily, and she does what she’s supposed to do because she’s good.”
3. The penalty corner unit once again came up clutch for Maryland. Despite only earning three corners, Maryland’s work in practice was enough to capitalize in game. Maura Verleg, the University of New Hampshire transfer, has been such a welcomed addition both on the defensive end and as a part of the penalty corner unit. Her dividends paid off with the game-winning goal.
“It’s a corner that we’ve only used one other time the whole season, so it’s one of our specialties,” Meharg said. “It’s very deceptive because [Verleg] is actually a stick stopper and she stands up and then comes onto the other battery and shoots...they executed it perfectly, they’ve been doing it well in training, so I’m not surprised.”