Maryland field hockey forward Madison Maguire lifted her arms, cracked a smile, and jumped for joy once she saw her late fourth-quarter shot rattle the cage, appearing to have given the Terps a hard-fought equalizer.
It had been a largely frustrating day for Maguire — the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year — and the Terps up to that point, having failed to break down a resolute Penn State defense. And it was the second straight game in which coach Missy Meharg’s squad failed to score in the opening three quarters of the game.
But Maguire’s smile quickly dissipated as she looked toward the referee, who signaled that forward Bibi Donraadt had fouled goalkeeper Brie Barraco, negating the goal and sending the Nittany Lions’ bench into a frenzy.
The No. 1-seeded Terps, on the other hand, were left in dismay, a microcosm of a frustrating performance in which they created plenty of chances but failed to get past Barraco, losing 1-0 to No. 5-seeded Penn State in the Big Ten tournament semifinals Friday.
Both sides’ attacking units looked sharp at the start, crowding the opposition’s shooting circle to create high-quality chances.
The Terps fired three shots at Barraco’s cage — all of which were dealt with by the Penn State netminder.
Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions recorded three shots of their own, eventually finding the net halfway through the opening frame.
The Terps struggled to clear the ball after an incisive Penn State run into the shooting circle, resulting in a bouncing ball ambling across goalkeeper Noelle Frost’s goalmouth.
Forward Bree Bednarski got the vital touch, sending the ball into the left side of the cage to give the Nittany Lions an early advantage.
As the game progressed to its second frame, the Terps began to enjoy more influence in the midfield and final third of the pitch.
Forward Mayv Clune and midfielder Linda Cobano saw their efforts ricochet off of Barraco, while a speculative effort from Maguire whistled outside of the post.
But just as Maryland’s attacking unit began to exert more control, the Nittany Lions shifted to a more pragmatic approach, dropping back in numbers to defend the threat — limiting their attacking creativity in the final third but making it difficult for the Terps to break down.
So, despite Maryland holding an overwhelming 9-3 edge in shots and a 3-0 advantage in penalty corners, the scoreboard read 1-0 in Penn State’s favor.
The third quarter paralleled the first, as Penn State — hoping to double its lead to kill off any chance of a Maryland comeback — began hoofing the ball up the pitch in an effort to get its attackers in one-on-one situations with defenders.
Consequently, Frost was forced into two saves, including a crucial intervention on forward Alexis Horst’s shot that forced the Terps’ netminder to drift beyond her shooting circle and kick away the flick.
Meanwhile, Barraco proved impenetrable, darting across her goalmouth to deny defender Bodil Keus of an equalizer.
Fifteen minutes separated top-seeded Maryland from an early tournament dismissal.
And the nerves were evident in the final period, as the Terps struggled to string together scoring chances, recording two shots in the frame.
When Maguire’s attempt flew beyond Barraco, it looked as if the senior had rescued Meharg’s squad, just as she has done time and time again this season.
As the referee’s whistle blew, though, it left Maguire and the rest of the Terps pondering what had gone wrong, and where to go from here as they try to pick up the pieces in time for the NCAA tournament.