For most of Maryland field hockey’s penalty corners this year, Bibi Donraadt has trotted to the backline to insert the ball for a Riley Donnelly shot.
And sometimes, Donnelly — the Terps’ leading goal scorer — will rocket the ball into the back wall of the cage.
Donnelly, a junior out of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, has been enjoying a successful season thus far. Her five goals are currently tied for second in the Big Ten conference.
Despite being Maryland’s go-to shooter on penalty corners and strokes, Donnelly isn’t even usually part of the Terps’ offensive attack — she’s a defender.
“What she does do is afford opportunities for options or special plays,” coach Missy Meharg said. “And she can drag to deflection; she can drag outside.”
Donnelly stepped into this role as the primary shooter on penalty corners and strokes in the absence of defender Bodil Keus, who is playing overseas in Europe this spring. Keus netted six goals for the Terps in 2019.
Like Keus, Donnelly uses a drag flick on her penalty corner shots. But when Keus was donning black and gold, her talent made it hard for others to earn these opportunities.
“Bodil Keus was one of the best drag clickers to ever drag in the NCAA, I’d say one of the top three,” Meharg said. “So in that regard, she got a predominant amount of opportunities, probably 80 percent so, it kind of took from the game development of other players.”
Meharg added Maryland now has a “far more balanced” and “team-oriented” approach with its penalty corners. While Donnelly’s drag flicking has been strong, Taylor Mason — who hits the ball instead of dragging it — is among those who have also received penalty corner shots.
Mason is also from Doylestown, Pennsylvania. She attended Central Bucks High School West, while Donnelly went to Central Bucks High School East. The two have played together on club teams throughout their lives.
And Donnelly wasn’t always a defender. She and Mason played up front together.
“You guys were both forwards when I first started watching you in fourth grade,” Meharg said.
While Donnelly has been in the backfield for much of her field hockey career, Mason said she remembers her playing forward and midfield on club teams.
“I played with Riley my whole life,” Mason said. “I mean, she is a defender, but … her skill set is very versatile.”
The mesh of Donnelly’s drag flick and Mason’s hits, along with shots from other players such as Maura Verleg and Anna Castaldo, create an unpredictable scenario on corners for defenses. While Keus was such a talented drag flicker, teams were able to prepare for her shots.
“We have options,” Meharg said about the team’s penalty corner situation. “I think it was more easy to play defense and penalty corners against Maryland in the past few years. So I like what we’re doing.