Poor first quarter start dooms No. 9 Maryland field hockey in route to earliest conference tournament exit ever

(Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

Just five minutes into the game, No. 4 Iowa earned its first penalty corner of the game and midfielder Ellie Holley hit the ball perfectly over Terps goalie Noelle Frost to take the early lead. 

Shortly after, midfielder/defender Esme Gibson drove the ball to the right of the shooting circle and sent a pass to forward Alex Wesneski who hit the ball into the left side of the goal to take a 2-0 lead in the first seven minutes of the game.  

No. 9 Maryland field hockey could not muster any kind of response with one of their penalty corners blocked and the other was cleared before the Terps were even able to get a shot off. The poor first quarter start ultimately doomed the team as they fell 3-0 for their first ever conference tournament quarterfinals loss. 

“We came out a little slow,” head coach Missy Meharg said. “Iowa is a very powerful team and dominated from the get go in the first 15 minutes, so it really set the tempo for the match. Although we played a sustained brand of hockey in the third and fourth, it was a lot of good hockey too late.”

Midway through the second quarter, the Hawkeyes struck again when Wesneski scored off a pass by Gibson that was deflected by Terps stick to take a 3-0 lead. Wesneski finished the game with eight shots and three of them on goal. 

The Hawkeyes flat out dominated the first half and were able to fly up the field on resets and takeaways catching the Terps by surprise, which allowed them to take an early lead. 

Iowa outshot Maryland 6-3 in the first half, and the Terps were only able to muster a total of five shots with none on goal. 

“I think what’s disappointing for us is that we have been playing several games in a row with sustained passing and today our passing was behind everybody,” Meharg said. “We were passing to people’s back feet, so we had to slow down.” 

The Hawkeyes were able to take advantage of their opportunities despite only taking eight shots and their defense was clutch, taking the ball away everytime the Terps moved into the shooting circle. 

“They are a very good team and their defenders are also really good,” midfielder Kyler Greenwalt said. “I feel like we didn’t do all we could. I think their defense was the same as the last three times so it’s not like we don’t know the defenders or their styles.”

Frost recorded three saves in the match while Iowa’s goalie Grace McGuire was rarely challenged. 

Midfielder and team captain Brooke DeBerdine returned to the starting lineup after missing the last three games with an injury and recorded one shot in the loss. Brooke DeBerdine’s shot, with five minutes left in the game, missed the net and caught McGurie’s attention, but the shot rolled out of bounds before any Terp could tap it into the empty net.

With their early exit from the Big Ten Tournament, the Terps’ impressive streak of 25 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances could end. In this unconventional season, the NCAA Tournament shrunk from the typical 18 teams to just 12 this year.

The 12-team NCAA Tournament Field will be announced Saturday.

Despite the likely disappointing end to the season, the next field hockey season is only four months away and seniors Brooke DeBerdine, Frost and Greenwalt are all returning for the fall 2021 season. 

“We have been through a journey and we have been for and with each other thick and thin, win or loss, we are in it together,” Meharg said. “I couldn’t be more proud…there’s nothing regular about what we have done [this season.]”