No. 9 Maryland field hockey opens Big Ten Tournament with match against No. 4 Iowa

(Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

No. 9 Maryland (8-6, 5-3 B1G) earned the No. 4 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and are facing the host team and No. 5 seeded Iowa (10-4, 5-3 B1G) in the Quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament Wednesday at 2:30 on the Big Ten Network. 

The Terps are looking to build on the momentum the team developed during last weekend’s sweep of then-No. 6 Rutgers. 

“So excited to be out here,” head coach Missy Meharg said. “How fantastic after such an interesting year for the women and certainly the staff. It’s just so exciting for us and our players to have a chance to compete in a tournament and qualify for the NCAA Tournament.”

The teams previously faced each other in the beginning of April where they split the season series. However, the Terps won the conference game by a score of 1-0 allowing them to leapfrog the Hawkeyes for the fourth seed, but were shut out two days later by a score of 3-0. 

Maryland’s offense was particularly poor in that series, only taking nine shots overall, drawing six penalty corners between the two matches. Yet, defender Maura Verleg did score off one of their penalty corners. The 3-0 loss against the Hawkeyes marked Maryland’s first against Iowa since 1994 and also was the first of three straight losses. 

“I couldn’t be happier that we are playing against Iowa and mostly because I believe they are a fantastic team and we didn’t play our best brand of hockey in either of the matches,” Meharg said. “We have come a long way since then.”

However, in their last two matches, the Terps offense has found its groove taking 19 shots and earning 11 penalty corners while scoring six goals, playing their best brand of hockey all season. 

The Terps also need goalie Noelle Frost to continue her stellar play. In the two matches against the Hawkeyes, Frost recorded nine saves and in the past two games she has made 15 saves earning the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week.

Entering the tournament Maryland is in uncharted territory as the No. 4 seed, their lowest ever in the Big Ten Tournament. It’s also the first time they are the fourth seed in any conference tournament since 2003. However, that hasn’t dampened the Terps’ excitement to compete in the tournament.

“We are lucky to have this opportunity to be out there and playing,” defender Riley Donnelly said. “I think it’s just that more appreciated after having to wait that long amount of time during COVID not being able to compete.” 

Midfielder and team captain Brooke DeBerdine is a game time decision for Wednesday’s match after missing the last three matches with an injury.

The Terps earned multiple conference honors with Brooke DeBerdine and Donnelly named to the First Team All-Big Ten. 

“I had no idea that those were being decided this week, so it wasn’t even on my radar, but it definitely gives me extra confidence going into the tournament,” Donnelly said. 

Additionally, forward Bibi Donraadt was named to the Second Team All-Big Ten and midfielder Kyler Greenwalt earned the Terps Sportsmanship Honoree. 

The Hawkeyes are led by forward Maddie Murphy who has scored seven goals with two of her goals coming against the Terps in their 3-0 shutout win and midfielder Ellie Holliday who has six assists. 

Iowa’s goalie Grace McGuire has also been strong by only allowing eight goals all season, but has allowed four goals in the past four games. 

Knowing the Hawkeyes defensive prowess, the Terps will need to continue their strong offensive play of late to counteract that stifling defense. Strong offense keyed by efficient penalty corners will be pivotal for Maryland to advance to the next round of the Big Ten Tournament.

An early exit in the Big Ten Tournament will put the Terps streak of 25 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in jeopardy.