No. 4 Maryland field hockey battle two top-five conference foes this weekend

Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

No. 4 Maryland field hockey (9-1, B1G 3-0) heads west to take on a pair of top four conference teams looking to snap three-game skids against these teams in head-to-head matchups. 

The Terps will face No. 3 Iowa (8-1, B1G 2-0) on Friday before taking on the defending National Champions, No. 2 Northwestern (9-1, B1G 0-1) on Sunday. 

This weekend has major implications on seeding for the Big Ten Tournament in November, with the number one seed earning a first-round bye. 

“We’re going to have a little bit of a harder time when we’re playing bigger teams,” defender Maura Verleg said. “I think that brings the best hockey out of us because we definitely play better when we play ranked teams.”

Maryland is coming off an eight-goal outburst last weekend, including seven goals against Michigan State, the fourth time this season Maryland has scored six or more goals in a game. 

The Terps also knocked off Michigan in overtime, earning their first top ten win en route to sweeping their homestand on midfielder Leah Crouse’s first of two goals this past weekend. 

This weekend Maryland will see two of the other top six offenses in the country. All three teams are averaging over three goals a game. 

Maryland will be facing a hot Iowa team that’s on a seven-game winning streak, including shutting out Northwestern 2-0 last weekend. 

“They have the best paces of the game,” head coach Missy Meharg said. “They’ll play really slow when they need to, and very tactical, strong defenders. Their forwards are wicked, scrappy, and natty.”

Hawkeyes’ forward Alex Wesneski leads Iowa with ten goals, including both scores in Iowa’s upset of Northwestern.

Maryland will see another strong forward on Sunday in Wildcats forward Bente Baekers, arguably the front runner for Big Ten Player of the Year. Baekers leads Northwestern and the country with 15 goals. 

“She picks up crap and makes a lot out of it,” Meharg said. “She’s going to get a simple shot and finish, so you really have to box her out from getting rebounds.”

No other Wildcat has more than four goals, and Baekers accounts for 44% of all Northwestern’s goals. 

Both teams have strong goalies. Iowa’s goalie Grace McGuire has recorded 29 saves while only allowing seven goals and has a .806 save percentage, second highest in the conference.

Northwestern’s goalie Annabel Skubisz is the U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team goalie and has only allowed ten goals this season while recording 26 saves. 

“I think it’s going to be a big weekend,” Verleg said. “I’m really confident in our team, we’ve worked really hard this past week to prepare.”