Maryland field hockey has had an unusual season. The traditional fall sports team just completed a 14-match regular season and played in the Big Ten tournament this week.
Coach Missy Meharg replaced Sue Tyler as the Terps’ head coach for the 1988 season after serving as a graduate assistant for three years. In addition to growing up playing the sport in Pennsylvania and earning All-American honors when competing for Delaware, the fall of 2020 was her first in a long time that didn’t feature a full slate of field hockey.
And Meharg couldn’t be prouder of the 20 women on her roster who’ve gotten through the challenges the last year has brought.
“I can’t believe how resilient, how powerful, how strong these women and this team and this program is,” Meharg said.
No. 9 Maryland’s 3-0 loss to No. 4 Iowa on Wednesday knocked the Terps out of the Big Ten tournament and may have jeopardized their chances of being selected in the 12-team NCAA bracket.
But that loss doesn’t tell the team’s whole story. Not only did Maryland have to deal with the obstacles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also lost several of its key players this season, including defender Bodil Keus.
But the Terps didn’t let those setbacks affect their game.
After playing at New Hampshire and winning the America East Rookie of the Year award in 2019, Maura Verleg joined the Terps’ defensive corps and penalty corner attack this spring. The Dutch native stepped up tremendously, scoring three goals, including the game-winner against then-No. 2 Iowa on April 2. She helped lead a defensive unit that allowed just 23 goals, sixth-lowest in the conference.
The team drew a Big Ten-high four penalty strokes, and Riley Donnelly buried three of them. Donnelly, a defender, also netted a trio of goals off penalty corners and led her squad in scoring.
“We’ve been faced with so many things this season, COVID being one of the biggest things, but just so many other things within our team,” midfielder Kyler Greenwalt said. “Especially with the numbers that we have, we’ve played some very good games this season.”
Before Maryland entered Iowa City, Iowa, for its showdown with the Hawkeyes in Wednesday’s Big Ten tournament quarterfinals, it rebounded from a three-match skid with a pair of victories over then-No. 6 Rutgers. The Terps seemed to finally find their groove at the conclusion of a tumultuous regular season where it hovered around the .500 mark.
But Iowa had other plans. It scored twice in the first seven minutes, asserting its dominance early.
“What’s disappointing for us is we had been playing several games in a row with really sustained passing,” Meharg said. “When you don’t pass the ball in the front space, then your eyes have to go to your back space.”
So, the Terps made that adjustment. And they didn’t allow the Hawkeyes to score a single goal in the second half.
But it was too little, too late for Meharg’s squad. Iowa’s three-spot in the first half carried it to victory, and the Terps fell, landing 8-7 on the season.
“We’ve had a good season, highs and lows,” Meharg said. “I applaud Iowa for a dominant performance.”