Terps top Wildcats, advance to Big Ten Championship game

By Max Marcilla

The Maryland Terrapins and Northwestern Wildcats have scripted a tremendous rivalry since the Terps joined the Big Ten in 2014.

In the 2014 Big Ten tournament, the Wildcats topped the Terps in the conference final. The following year Maryland avenged the loss with a thrilling double overtime victory.

In the third chapter of this rivalry, the Terps needed another extra time winner to take down Northwestern 3-2. This year’s heroics came from Big Ten Player of the Year Welma Luus.

The game-winning goal was Luus’ 15th score of the season and her sixth game-winning shot.

“Carrie [Hanks] took a great shot and the rebound literally came right into my stick,” Luus said. “Again, a little bit of luck and then [I had] an open shot.”

Maryland did not lead Northwestern all afternoon until Luus ended the game with her overtime shot. The Wildcats got out to a fast start and took the lead on Kirsten Mansfields’ seventh minute goal.

After the Terps evened the score with Grace Balsdon’s goal, Northwestern regained the lead. After Friday’s game Balsdon leads the Terps with 16 goals on the season.

Entering halftime, Maryland trailed for just the third time all season. Nonetheless, the resilient, top-seeded Terps remained confident through the break.

“We always give the players about a third of the halftime minutes to talk,” head coach Missy Meharg said. “We listened to them, and they made the decision to just [keep the offensive intensity] up… If you keep doing what you’re doing, they’re going to fall.”

Maryland outplayed Northwestern in the first half, outshooting the ‘Cats 14-5. That trend continued throughout the game, as the Terps were able to put pressure on goalkeeper Lindsa von der Luft with an additional seven shots.

Even though the offense was active, it wasn’t until the 54th minute that Maryland evened the score. Freshman Sophie Pelzer scored her fourth career goal, a shot from the top of the circle that found the back of the net.

“Honestly, I still don’t know how it got in, but it went in, and that’s the most important thing,” Pelzer said with a smile. “I was just very happy.”

Contributions from underclassmen are not unexpected for Mehargs’ Terps. Freshmen Kelee Lepage and Madison Maguire both scored in Maryland’s quarterfinal victory against Rutgers while sophomore Linnea Gonzales has recorded eight shots and a goal through the first two games of the tournament.

“If you look at any major program, it’s all about recruiting,” Meharg said. “But it’s also about characters. I’m really fortunate that we’ve been able to sustain a certain breed and style of person.”

The Terps look to take home more hardware as they host Penn State for the Big Ten title Sunday, Nov. 6 at noon.