By Callie Caplan
Though the University of Maryland switched conferences from the ACC to the Big 10 this summer, a rivalry between two storied ACC field hockey programs was reignited on a sweltering afternoon before Maryland’s Big 10 conference schedule even began.
Maryland’s field hockey team faced off against the University of North Carolina at the Maryland Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park, Md. on Friday in game dominated by the Tarheels. The Terps’ early-season miscommunications and rustiness proved costly as they suffered their first loss of the season by a score of 3-1.
Maryland head coach Missy Meharg has often spoken of the unprecedented familiarity between the two programs given the past ACC and post season encounters. In this game, however, the Tarheels employed several defensive tactics that the Terps did not expect.
“I think Carolina’s game plan was very mature in it’s way of, with the heat, just waiting behind us and getting under the ball,” Meharg said. “Carolina definitely just had a lot of concern for our forwards. I could tell by the way they just held their defenders goal side, and just waited for us.”
The Tarheels scored their first goal early when Charlotte Craddock, a 2008 Olympian for the English field hockey team, drove in a penalty corner off an assist from Loren Shealy. The goal, which came less than five minutes into the game, was partly aided by a Maryland coaching decision to switch up their corner defense.
“We played a very different corner defense, and we didn’t have a post player in,” Mehard said. “That was by design. The coaching staff will take not blame but certainly say that that was a gamble.”
The Tarheels widened their lead to 3-0 on two more goals in the second half. Both goals, one by Lauren Shealy with under 20 minutes remaining and one by Julia Young with under four minutes remaining, came on second chances from rebounds in the circle.
After the game, Maryland goalie Brooke Cabrera acknowledged that the rebounds are something the Terps need to eliminate as the season progresses.
“I think we just needed to have stronger clears out wide,” said Cabrera. “I actually tried to direct it out wide and it just got unlucky, though I think I can do a better job communicating and organizing the defenders…we will be a lot more successful if we can throw [the ball] out quick.”
Maryland’s one goal came from Steffi Schneid off of a penalty corner with less than three minutes remaining, but, at that point, the Tarheels’ lead was insurmountable.
Prior to the game, the NCAA Coaches Poll had Maryland ranked No.1 and North Carolina ranked No. 2. Though both teams are among the most talented in the country, the players and coaches acknowledged the usual pristine play showcased in the rivalry was limited by early season mistakes.
“You can blame it on anything you want, but at the end of the day it’s just an error,” senior Maxine Fluharty said. “It’s early in the season for them as well, so they could be making the same kind of errors as we were, and they just happened to capitalize in the circle a lot better than we did.”