Maryland field hockey midfielder Kelee Lepage drifted into a pocket of space just inside the shooting circle — an area the Terps failed to regularly penetrate in the first half of their matchup against No. 21 Ohio State on Sunday.
Forward Emma DeBerdine found her with a slick feed, prompting the senior to do what Maryland had failed to do in its previous six quarters: finish a scoring chance.
When the ball caromed off the backboard, the Terps’ woes were no more.
While many of Lepage’s teammates rushed toward her, it was DeBerdine’s creativity that carved a chance out of nothing.
It was only the start for DeBerdine. After helping the Terps break their scoreless streak, she notched two goals to deny the Buckeyes an upset victory. The performance added to a growing list of impressive displays from the freshman, who has produced repeatedly — this time in an unfamiliar position.
“She’s a great player,” midfielder Brooke DeBerdine said earlier in the season, “She came out prepared for her freshman year, and it’s obviously showing.”
Going into Sunday’s matchup, the DeBerdine sisters and the Terps only had one thing on their minds after No. 9 Michigan shut them out in their previous match — a 1-0 defeat.
“Do our jobs and finish,” Emma DeBerdine said. “We definitely needed to finish.”
But after falling behind to two early Ohio State goals, coach Missy Meharg was frustrated with Maryland’s attacking display, especially in a second quarter that saw the Terps muster only one shot on goal.
As a team, Maryland struggled to keep possession of the ball, often relying on dribbling instead of committing to its usual passing-centric attack.
“It’s a passing game before dribbling game,” Meharg said. “This is something that has been a problem of ours, and it was for the first couple quarters.”
But the third quarter presented a return to form for the Terps, who leaned on Emma DeBerdine to show the quality that had pushed them up the national rankings.
Emma DeBerdine — who has spent the season as part of the front three — dropped into the midfield, gaining more influence on the ball while helping the Terps keep possession and carve out more dangerous chances.
“One of the bright spots was seeing Emma DeBerdine in the midfield,” Meharg said. “She gave us so much connection between our backfield and our front field.”
Minutes after the Buckeyes’ lead swelled back to two, the freshman burst in front of the goalmouth, cutting in front of defender Jennica Jonovich before tapping in Madison Maguire’s cross.
Barely five minutes later, DeBerdine slotted home her second — a deflection off defender Bodil Keus’ penalty corner effort — to push Maryland’s lead to two, a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
“It definitely felt good to play [as a midfielder],” she said. “We definitely were able to make a lot of infield breaks on them, and a lot of in-and-out passing, which is fun to be a part of in the midfield.”
The freshman has impressed on the front line throughout the season — her six goals rank tied for second on the team, while she ranks fourth in points with 16.
But her strong showing in the midfield is certain to stick in Meharg’s mind. She’s looking to make the necessary adjustments to ensure the Terps are ready to go come the postseason — and the freshman has already earned a ringing endorsement.
“We’re going to see her more in the midfield,” Meharg said.