Maryland field hockey netted two goals en route to a shutout win in its season opener last week against Michigan State. Both of those goals were set up by strong passes from defender Riley Donnelly, leaving her with two points on the season.
And only about six minutes into the Terps’ Sunday match against Northwestern, it was the junior out of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, whose drag gave Maryland its first and only score of the match.
“Riley is a very patient player,” midfielder Emma DeBerdine said. “She’s very patient and so skillful and so powerful on the field.”
As the Terps return to the Virginia Beach Sportsplex this weekend for matchups with Ohio State and Northwestern, Donnelly’s four points are far out in front for the team lead and tied for second in the Big Ten.
But despite Donnelly’s strong play, Maryland finds itself with a 1-1 record through the first weekend. And when coach Missy Meharg’s squad returned to College Park for a few days this week, it trained and practiced a variety of skills, including penalty corners.
“I think the first weekend was a great learning experience for us,” DeBerdine said. “This is just another weekend for us to come back and show what we’ve worked on the past few days.”
Not only has Donnelly been effective in putting points on the scoreboard this season, but she has also successfully set up opportunities for herself and her teammates. She’s taken 10 shots this year, and the next highest total in the conference is seven. Also, her pair of assists are tied for the second most in the Big Ten.
She’s still listed as a defender. Yet, she’s provided more offense than most in the conference this year.
“What’s super nice with Riley is she can play a lot of different positions, and she’s got a lot of different skillsets,” Meharg said. “She’s really coming into another level of her game, which is fantastic.”
Donnelly is off to a fast start with the Terps in her third season. But it’s not just Maryland where she’s a top field hockey player.
DeBerdine and Donnelly are prominent members of the U.S. under-21 field hockey team. In December, the duo — along with Brooke DeBerdine, Kyler Greenwalt and a number of other Big Ten athletes — will compete at the 2021 Women’s FIH Hockey Junior World Cup in Potchefstroom, South Africa.
“We’re all going to be out of this craziness and be traveling and back to real world sports,” Meharg said. “I’m hopeful that we all get there.”
In February 2020, Donnelly was with Team USA in Chula Vista, California, taking on Canada. And she found the cage on a penalty corner drag flick in its shutout win.
It’s a part of her game that has become a real threat to opposition defenses for both college and country. This weekend, Donnelly will be at it again, looking to rifle home another shot into the back of the cage on a penalty corner — or set a chance up for someone else to do the same.