No. 3 Maryland field hockey opens NCAA Tournament with 2021 Final Four rematch

Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Almost one year ago, with under two minutes left in double overtime deadlocked at 2-2, Liberty moved quickly up the field in transition. 

The Flames earned a two-on-one opportunity, and forward/midfielder Charlotte Vaanhold flicked the ball over goalie Noelle Frost, sending Liberty to the National Championship and ending Maryland’s 2021 season. 

“It’s definitely a loss that we think about a lot,” midfielder Emma DeBerdine said. 

No. 3 seed Maryland field hockey (17-3) will get a rematch with Liberty (12-7) this time in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament and at home.

Liberty won their second straight Big East Tournament, clinching their spot in the 2022 NCAA tournament. 

In last year’s game, Liberty took a 2-0 lead in the third quarter before Maryland battled back, tying the game late, and forcing overtime. 

“I remember that they are a very hard-working team, and they’re very gritty,” DeBerdine said. “They want to win every 50-50 ball; it’s great, that’s how our team is right now.”

Last year, Liberty was dominant, earning a big regular season win against No. 9 North Carolina en route to a 15-2 regular season record. Then, in the tournament, Liberty took down No. 1 overall seed Rutgers in penalty strokes, earning the trip to Ann Arbor. 

Maryland struggled some in the regular season, falling to Big Ten rivals Penn State, Northwestern, Iowa and Rutgers. 

This year the teams have reversed positions, with Liberty having an up-and-down season while Maryland has looked dominant throughout most of the season. 

Liberty has stumbled against top-ranked teams this season, going 0-4 against other teams in the NCAA Tournament. In those games, the Flames got outshot 13-4 but still averaged 3.28 goals a game, the fifth-highest number in the country. 

“I think the key for Maryland will be just to shift that ball out of areas of contention out of traffic jams, shift it quickly and get out,” head coach Missy Meharg said. “They drop a lot of people to the ball, which if you’re not going to pass the ball quickly can become a problem, but I think Maryland is very keen, and we’re working hard on making that first easy pass.”

The Terps have struggled some recently, losing twice in the past two weeks while only scoring more than two goals once. 

The Terps’ most recent loss came on Friday against Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals, where the Wildcats shut down Maryland’s offensive attack in the first half. 

“I’m confident that we’ll come out and be able to get good shots, good looks, good spacing in the circle, and good field goals,” Meharg said. 

The winner of this game will take on the winner of the Princeton-Syracuse game on Sunday afternoon with a Final Four berth on the line.