As she’s done all season long, Riley Donnelly drag-flicked a shot toward the cage after Maryland field hockey drew a penalty corner. And as had been the case all match long for the Terps, her shot — with 20 seconds left in regulation — missed the mark.
When the clock read zero, coach Missy Meharg greeted Iowa coach Lisa Cellucci on the sideline. Cellucci’s Hawkeyes pulled off a dominant 3-0 thrashing of Maryland to knock the Terps out of the Big Ten tournament.
“I told her I hope she wins it,” Meharg said. “She is a phenomenal person.”
It was a struggle on offense for No. 9 Maryland (8-7). For the first time since Oct. 20, 2007, the Terps didn’t register a single shot on goal.
The damage started early. Less than five minutes into the match, No. 4 Iowa (11-4) drew the match’s first penalty corner and found the back of the net.
The Hawkeyes’ Nikki Freeman stopped Leah Zellner’s defensive intervention with her stick, allowing Ellie Holley to fire a shot past a diving Noelle Frost. And Iowa celebrated on its home pitch, but not for the last time.
A minute later, the Terps responded with a penalty corner of their own. After an initial shot was deflected, a Kyler Greenwalt follow-up shot was also cut off by the Hawkeyes.
“Maybe we didn’t do all we could,” Greenwalt said. “I think their defense was the same the last three times we’ve played them now.”
And the fast start for Iowa continued. After breaking up a Maryland push downfield, Esme Gibson found Alex Wesneski, who pushed another shot past Frost — the second Hawkeyes goal in two minutes, giving them a 2-0 lead.
The Terps had only allowed two first-quarter goals all season. And it matched that only seven minutes into its opening Big Ten tournament match.
“Iowa is a very powerful team and dominated from the get-go in the first 15 minutes,” Meharg said. “That really set the tempo for the match.”
Maryland’s attack did look strong early, drawing another penalty corner on the other end of the pitch. Still, nothing was getting by Iowa’s defensive corps.
In the final minutes of the opening period, a green card was called against the Hawkeyes. But Iowa wouldn’t let the Terps benefit from their power play, controlling the ball deep on their side of the pitch and keeping it away from an anxious Maryland attack.
“We had been playing several games in a row with sustained passing,” Meharg said. “And today, our passing was behind everybody. We were passing into people’s back feet.”
Iowa wasn’t done scoring. Before Maryland even took a shot, the Hawkeyes scored once again.
Gibson sent a long, sharp shot in the direction of the cage. And in the blink of an eye, the ball was behind Frost.
The Terps’ Nathalie Fiechter tried to swat the ball away with her stick. But Wesneski was there to deflect Gibson’s flick into the goal — giving Iowa a commanding 3-0 advantage.
Nothing seemed to be going Maryland’s way in the first half. Eventually, Taylor Mason knocked down the ball and set herself up with a relatively open shot. However, it was off the mark, sailing wide left of the cage.
As the Terps headed to the intermission, they faced their largest halftime deficit of the entire season. Maryland had only let up three goals in an entire match twice this season. And it had already done so by the end of the second quarter of its Big Ten tournament quarterfinal.
“It’s not like we don’t know the defenders and know their styles,” Greenwalt said. “We just kind of have to learn from this experience and move forward.”
Just over six minutes into the second half, the Terps drew their third penalty corner of the match. But again, Maryland missed, as the shot from Maura Verleg was wide.
A late Brooke DeBerdine near set-up was one of the only chances Maryland had created to try and break down the Iowa lead, but they were few and far between and the Terps came crashing out of the tournament.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the memories with this team over so many years of just what you know to be a regular season,” Meharg said. “There’s nothing regular about what we’ve done.”
Although Maryland sits at No. 9 in the National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association poll, only 12 spots are open in the NCAA tournament.
With a handful of teams earning auto bids from conference tourneys, the Terps will have to hope their resume can stack up with the competition if their season continues.
“I honestly wouldn’t want to go through this journey with anyone else,” Greenwalt said. “Everyone’s just had everybody’s backs, and it’s very sad that we lost.”