Bibi Donraadt headed to the backline to insert Maryland field hockey’s second penalty corner of Friday’s match late in the first quarter. She’d done so numerous times this season, but this was only her second time doing so on her homefield.
Typically, defender Riley Donnelly has been at the end of Donraadt’s corner deliveries. But this time, midfielder Belle Bressler set up the corner for freshman Maura Verleg.
And Verleg’s hard shot knocked off the back wall of the cage. Maryland heard its sparse home crowd cheering after a goal for the first time in over a year. It was Verleg’s first career goal and it helped spearhead the Terps’ 5-0 shutout of Indiana.
“It’s something we did differently than Indiana expected us to do,” Verleg said. “They expected Riley to drag or hit.”
Not only did Maryland score the most goals it has this season and win by its largest margin, but the Terps outshot the Hoosiers, 17-5, and coach Missy Meharg’s squad drew eight penalty corners to Indiana’s two.
Indiana (0-7) entered Friday winless, having only scored just one goal through its first six matches. On Thursday, Maryland (4-3) coach Missy Meharg emphasized the importance of respecting the Hoosiers, who are playing an entire schedule of away matches.
Maryland’s attack was strong early against an Indiana defense that came into Friday’s matchup allowing three goals per game. But just over three minutes in, it was the Hoosiers who drew the first penalty corner, and Mary Kate Kesler’s shot sailed wide left.
Several minutes after the Terps broke away, they drew their first corner. And as Indiana goalkeeper Shannon McNally stopped Taylor Mason’s blast midway through the first, the early stalemate continued.
“Indiana is much improved,” Meharg said. “They really put us under some fire at the beginning and held us at bay for a long time.”
Though Maryland was able to keep the ball moving from right to left for most of the opening period, the Hoosiers’ defense held it to just a pair of shots before Verleg’s score gave the Terps the upper hand.
Just after the second period began, Indiana began to test Terps goalkeeper Noelle Frost with a burst of offense. Still, the Terps continued to protect their cage.
Eight-and-a-half minutes into the second period, Maryland showed a new wrinkle to its penalty corner routine. Off the set, defender Riley Donnelly dragged a soft pass in the direction of the cage, where Donraadt hopped out from the backline. However, her shot couldn’t hit the target.
But moments later, the Terps connected again. This time, they rustled the net.
Donnelly’s shot missed, and Donraadt was positioned toward the left of McNally. As the ball ricocheted off the freshman goalkeeper’s leg, the junior flipped her team-high fourth goal of the season into the cage.
And not even a minute later, the surge continued. After freshman Anna Castaldo fired a backhanded blast toward the cage, forward Kyler Greenwalt was right there to shoot the loose ball past McNally and give the Terps a 3-0 advantage.
They kept the pressure going, drawing their second penalty stroke of the season with five seconds left in the first half. Donnelly slipped the ball past McNally, and Maryland carried its largest lead of the season into the intermission.
Maryland began to shake up its units in the second half. Midfielder Brooke DeBerdine inserted some penalty corners instead of Donraadt, and Meharg had some younger players, including Verleg and Castaldo, see increased action. Christina Calandra entered in the cage, giving Frost her first respite of the season.
“I’ve made some errors with some experiments,” Meharg said. “Today, I feel really good about the combinations … some of the players really got into areas of the field and combinations with teammates that they hadn’t gotten before.”
The Terps’ offense couldn’t find the cage in the second half after its explosive second quarter, but it still totaled five shots in the third period alone. As it attacked from left to right, it kept the ball on that side for the majority of the frame.
And when even a shot looked promising for Indiana, the Terps’ defense was there to turn the ball away.
With just under four minutes to play, Castaldo added her first career goal, firing a shot into the upper part of the cage, to cap off Maryland’s home opener — and its first match of the season under the lights — with a 5-0 shutout.
“There are so many things today that I forgot that we did, like just general rituals,” Meharg said. “The one thing COVID has given us is a different lens on what it is we do, and really, change is good.”