For No. 13 Maryland field hockey’s second penalty corner of the match in the third quarter, coach Missy Meharg shook up her squad’s attack a bit. While Bibi Donraadt still handled the insertion, she didn’t pass it to Maura Verleg.
Instead, it was Natalie Fiechter who crouched down and laid out her stick. The ball rolled toward her, and it hopped off her stick toward Verleg. And just as she did two weeks ago, the sophomore newcomer rifled a shot into the back of the cage to break the ice in the third quarter.
Along with a stellar performance by goalkeeper Noelle Frost, the goal was the only one the Terps needed to shut out No. 2 Iowa, 1-0, Friday evening.
After Maryland was blanked by Penn State earlier in the season and fell below .500, it knew it needed to turn things around. And Friday, it kept its four-match win streak intact, pulling off a shutout over the second-ranked team in the nation.
“I think Maryland looked fresher. I think Maryland looked faster,” Meharg said. “We thought that Iowa was slow collectively in counter defense.”
Getting off to a hot start has been critical to the Terps’ and Hawkeyes’ successes this season. But with two Big Ten field hockey powerhouses facing off on Grant Field Friday evening, Iowa couldn’t register a single shot against Maryland’s defense through that quarter. And the Terps were also held shotless against the Hawkeyes’ strong defensive corps, which had held opponents to just 31 shots entering Friday.
But Iowa’s offense heated up once the game clock was reset. Early in the second quarter, midfielder Ellie Holley drove down the pitch and took a shot against Maryland goalkeeper Noelle Frost. Off the miss, the Hawkeyes rebounded and tried again, but Frost was there to stop it.
About seven minutes into the second quarter, Iowa had already taken five shots, and the Terps had fired off one.
It took until there was four minutes left in the first half for a team to draw a penalty corner. And it was Maryland that did.
Bibi Donraadt inserted the ball to Maura Verleg, who set Riley Donnelly up for her unique drag flick shot. But she deliberately aimed her blast just to the right of Hawkeyes’ goalkeeper Grace McGuire, and Donraadt jumped out from the backline and tried a shot. McGuire took care of it.
Soon after, as Iowa began to attack, Holley launched an open shot toward the cage. Maryland goalkeeper Noelle Frost stretched out to her right and swatted the ball away with her stick.
“They framed the goal very well,” Frost said. “They made it really difficult for us to make sure we were in the correct spots.”
Just over six minutes into the third quarter, Iowa drew its first penalty corner. Senior Maddy Murphy headed to the backline for the insertion as Noelle Frost and the Terps’ defense readied. Holley’s eventual shot was deflected.
As the stalemate continued, Maryland earned its second corner of the evening — which preceded the match’s only goal.
“It’s a corner that we’ve only used one other time the whole season,” Meharg said. “It’s one of our specialties.”
And six minutes into the fourth quarter, Maryland drew another corner. Donraadt took care of the insertion and sent the pass to Verleg. Donnelly rocketed a shot toward McGuire that missed, and Fiechter couldn’t connect on another attempt when the ball was loose.
The Terps quickly broke away about two minutes later, when Mayv Clune took a shot from just outside the circle. Iowa knew it needed to get its offense going.
But it couldn’t.
Maryland forced several turnovers over the last few minutes as it tried to just keep the ball away from the Hawkeyes.
With about two minutes left, Iowa moved down the field. And the Terps’ stingy defense wouldn’t even let it into the circle.
So coach Lisa Celluci pulled Grace McGuire as an extra attacker joined the offense. And with around 30 seconds left, the Hawkeyes moved toward their cage.
But Maryland defender Riley Donnelly was there to turn the ball away, and secure the Terps’ 1-0 shutout of the No. 2 team in the nation.
“Riley Donnelly’s patience and maturity in the final quarter was outstanding,” Meharg said.