Emma DeBerdine headed to the backline to trigger a fourth quarter penalty corner for a Riley Donnelly shot, just as Maryland field hockey has done numerous times this season.
But Northwestern was ready. It disrupted the insertion and fired a coast-to-coast pass from one 23-meter line to the other, where an open Bente Baekers dashed to the cage.
Baekers flicked the ball beyond Noelle Frost’s grasp, giving the Wildcats a lead with about five minutes left. And it was all Northwestern needed to emerge victorious in Virginia Beach, Virginia, defeating coach Missy Meharg’s squad, 2-1.
The Terps struggled to find the back of the cage Sunday morning. They leave the Big Ten at the Beach with a pair of wins and two losses to Northwestern.
“Never accustomed to accepting losing,” Meharg said. “Although the reality on the wins that we had throughout the quarters was very promising for us.”
Maryland (2-2) started the morning with a huge blow. The Wildcats (3-1) fired a side-in onto the pitch, and the ball struck Terps midfielder Taylor Mason in the face. The junior instantly fell to the turf and had to exit the match for the rest of the first quarter.
Last Sunday, the Terps suffered a 2-1 defeat to the Wildcats after drawing seven penalty corners in the first quarter.
A stark contrast from last week, it took over 14 minutes for either team to earn one. It was Maryland that did so first, and Riley Donnelly took a shot that rolled wide.
With the sun high in the sky Sunday morning, the Terps were on a different pitch at the Virginia Beach Sportsplex than they were for their first three matches of the season.
“It was just a really hard field to play penalty corners on, which made it harder to get the final shot off,” Bibi Donraadt said.
As Mason returned to the pitch in the second quarter, the Terps continued to attack. But Wildcats goalkeeper Anna Skubisz wouldn’t let anything past her.
Maryland’s defense kept Northwestern from earning a penalty corner for over 21 minutes into the match. Once the Wildcats finally earned one, Terps goalkeeper Noelle Frost came up with a stop.
They followed it up with another corner two minutes later. And midfielder Lakin Barry broke the deadlock, whipping a strike through a sea of limbs to slot past Frost.
As Maryland found itself with an early deficit, it also found itself defending yet another Northwestern corner. But the Terps dealt with the Wildcats threat this time around. Soon, the whistle blew for halftime. Northwestern took a 1-0 lead into the intermission.
About five minutes into the third quarter, the Terps thought they had their first goal. Mason launched a shot that found the back of the cage. But it was waved off, and Maryland’s dry spell continued.
But seconds later, forward Bibi Donraadt delivered. The junior rifled a shot into the cage from just inside the right side of the shooting circle, knotting the match at one. The goal was Donraadt’s first of the season.
Throughout the third quarter, Frost continued to contain a strong Wildcats attack.
“I just really trust her being back there,” Donraadt said of Frost, who made seven saves.
With under a minute left, the Terps’ offense surged and drew another penalty corner, which elicited some cheers from the Maryland sideline.
Off an insertion from Emma DeBerdine, a few passes led to a Nathalie Fiechter effort being deflected and eventually kicked away by Skubisz. This gave the Terps another, and Mayv Clune’s shot couldn’t hit.
About three minutes into the fourth, the Wildcats earned a penalty corner, and the ensuing shot was kicked away by Frost. Northwestern snagged the rebound and fired a backhanded shot, but Frost was equal to it once again.
“I think the culture of Maryland field hockey plays fast hockey,” Meharg said. “We actually just played deeper in defense, which I thought gave us an incredible opportunity to counter attack and have good looks and good full shots.”
With about five minutes left, Maryland drew a penalty corner of its own. Donnelly had the ball taken away from her by the Wildcats’ strong defense, and it quickly sent the ball up the pitch with a long pass.
Forward Bente Baekers corralled the pass and bolted up the field from left to right. The redshirt sophomore headed toward the cage and poked the ball into the cage. After video review, the goal stood. And Northwestern took a 2-1 lead late, one it would protect en route to a second-straight victory over Meharg’s squad.
“Our tactics were spot-on. We played a very good brand of hockey,” Meharg said. “Bente Baekers is a very skillful player, and I think we just have to take the risks and continue growing together and working on our new backfield.”