Just over eight minutes into the game, Northwestern senior Lauren Wadas dribbled to her left before drawing a double team and firing a short pass to graduate student Lindsey Frank. Then, Frank accelerated deep into the shooting circle and proceeded to snipe a straight shot – past Maryland keeper Alysaa Klebasko – into the back of the net, giving the midfielder her second goal of the season.
The goal served as the start of a challenging first half that No. 7 Maryland wouldn’t recover from, as the Terps snapped their seven game win streak, falling 5-1 to No. 1 Northwestern.
Five minutes after Frank’s goal, the Wildcats went on attack once more off a breakaway opportunity from graduate student Alia Marshall. Though known primarily as a facilitator, the Delaware native took the ball coast to coast herself. Speeding by midfield, Marshall split two defenders, then scooped a shot past the fingertips of a diving Klebasko. Marshall’s second score of the season served as the most goals allowed by Maryland since October 1.
The Wildcats lost no momentum heading into the second quarter. Just one minute into the period, Marshall found the ball yet again. However, this time, the graduate student exhibited her passing skills, showing why she leads the Big Ten in assists (17) and ranks second in the entire NCAA in assists per game (.94). In one swift motion, Marshall powered a rocket pass to Peyton Halsey, who collected the ball before flicking a quick shot into the back of the net.
“We got buried,” head coach Missy Meharg said at the half. “It’s just a matter of stepping up and keeping numbers in the different levels of the field…we’ve been very slow in counter-defending.”
For the first time this season, the Terps found themselves down three goals. But finally, in the 17th minute, the road team answered. Expertly weaving through four defenders inside the circle, sophomore Hannah Boss fell to the turf – an intentional trip resulting in a penalty corner opportunity.
After an insert from freshman Maci Bradford, junior Hope Rose collected the ball. In a flash, Rose shoveled a short pass to freshman Josie Hollamon, who then aimed a laser pass right back to a cutting Bradford. Northwestern keeper Annabel Skubisz extended a leg out, anticipating a shot. But it was too late, as Bradford steadied the ball and lofted a touch shot that hit nothing but net to stop the bleeding.
“Getting on the board and putting ourselves in [that] position, it’s anybody’s game with a two goal difference,” stressed Meharg. “It’s right there [for the taking].”
The score remained gridlocked at one-three heading into halftime, thanks to three great saves from Klebasko off blocked shots from Wadas, Olivia Bent-Cole, and Chloe Relford.
The Wildcats received two penalty corner opportunities to open the third quarter. Klebasko put a stop to the first shot, collecting her sixth save of the day. But Northwestern converted on the second chance, courtesy of a straight shot at the top of the circle by Ilse Tromp that whizzed into the back of the net.
Four minutes later, Meharg subbed out Klebasko, bringing in junior keeper Paige Kieft to guard the goal. Seeing minutes for the first time in eight matches, Kieft held Northwestern scoreless for 13 minutes.
However, a third of the way through the third quarter, the Wildcats put the final nail in the Terps’ coffin. Dribbling in an arc just inside the shooting circle, junior Regan Cornelius grounded a shot past Kieft, cashing into the bottom left of the goal minutes before time expired.
Cornelius’ goal marks the first time that Maryland has given up five goals to a Big Ten team (in a single game) since joining the conference in 2014. The Terps move to 14-4 on the season, now holding a 19-14 all-time series record against the Wildcats.
“We were quite young today with a very seasoned, well-coached team,” stated Meharg. “[Northwestern] ran over us in the first quarter. We really weren’t able to gain ground…definitely [playing] on the backfoot.”
Though the regular season is over, Maryland looks ahead to the Big Ten Tournament. Labeled as the third seed, the Terps will take on an unknown sixth seed – likely familiar foes in the No. 8 Iowa Hawkeyes or No. 15 Penn State Nittany Lions. After beating both teams earlier this season, Maryland travels to Ann Arbor, Michigan to play one of the two once more.
“We’ve [played] really good, big time hockey, and there’s nothing to say we can’t get that back,” emphasized Meharg. “This is about having the tough conversations with each other. We’re going to look at this game as an opportunity and get better from it.”