Sammy Popper’s two Goals Propels Field Hockey to Quarterfinals

Photo by Chris Lyons/ Maryland Athletics

Just over nine minutes into the match, forward Margot Lawn inserted the ball to graduate student Sammy Popper. In one swift motion, Popper steadied the pass, then sniped a straight shot past five stunned defenders that bounced off the ground before whizzing into the back of the net.

Popper’s ninth goal of the season provided No. 4 Maryland with an early lead that would never be contested, as the Terps put on an offensive masterclass, cruising to a 3-0 shutout victory over No. 17 Old Dominion in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Maryland’s first penalty corner opportunity – prior to the goal – arrived just over four minutes into the first period. Per usual, Lawn took a spot in the corner before inserting a pass to junior Hope Rose. After collecting the ball, Rose lined and grounded a shot towards the bottom left of the net. But in an incredible effort, Monarchs’ freshman keeper Suus Broers extended a leg out, just making contact to deflect the ball out.

In the remaining first quarter minutes following Popper’s initial goal, the Terps’ defense held strong – courtesy of Alyssa Klebasko. The freshman keeper collected two saves in the span of just five seconds, both off blocked shots from Old Dominion sophomore Sanci Molkenboer.

“We’re fortunate [Alyssa’s] on our team,” stressed head coach Missy Meharg. “She talks and gives directions…and people listen to her.”

Maryland entered the second quarter with a narrow one-nothing lead; however, in the 22nd minute of play, history repeated itself. In a near identical play, Lawn fired a penalty corner pass to Popper yet again. After collecting the ball, Popper took a step inside the shooting circle, then powered a line drive shot that hit nothing but net, cashing in on her second goal of the day to give to the Terps some much needed breathing room heading into halftime. 

“Sometimes games are decided on [penalty] corners,” Popper said. “It just [took] a mental focus to put the ball in the corners, and it was a very good team effort on that [front] today.”

Klebasko made her presence known once more to open the second half. The All-Big Ten Second Team selection brought her total to five saves on the day just ten minutes into the third quarter – thanks to three diving blocks off shots from Molkenboer, Nicole Fredricks, and Frederique Zandbergen. 

Though the Monarchs outshot Maryland five-two in third period, the Terps still found a way to capitalize, further widening their lead in the 41st minute of play. Trapped in a double team near the endline, senior Anna Castaldo squeaked a pass through to a cutting Lawn. In an incredible sequence, Lawn flicked the ball into the air before steadying it on her front stick and knocking it past a diving Broers, straight into the back of the net.

“She’s a goal scorer and a finisher at [the net],” Meharg emphasized. “Margot’s been an incredible player [for us] all year.”

The Terps managed to extend their shutout throughout the fourth quarter, due to expert perimeter pressure and more flawless play in goal from Klebasko. The Monarchs’ only solid look in the period came from Fredricks, but per usual, Klebasko blocked it at the net, collecting her sixth save of the day while effectively icing the match.

Maryland now moves to an impressive 17-5 on the season, and holds a winning 22-21-1 all-time series record over Old Dominion.

The Terps survive and advance, as they look ahead to a second-round, Elite Eight NCAA Tournament matchup back in College Park this Sunday at 1:30 p.m. against either No. 5 Virginia (12-6) or No. 13 Saint Joseph’s (16-4).