No. 8 Maryland field hockey knows about battles. The Terps are off to a 9-4 start this year and are 3-1 in overtime affairs.
Friday’s clash at No. 3 Rutgers should be no different. The Scarlet Knights have rolled to a 10-2 record thus far and are unbeaten in three matches that have lasted longer than 60 minutes.
And there’s a little more at stake for coach Missy Meharg — she’s closing in on a milestone victory, having currently won 599 games across her 34 years at the helm of the Terps.
“I’m only in this position because I’ve had the best athletes to coach,” Meharg said. “I’ve had a great school that has supported me and my staff.”
But standing between Meharg and that elusive 600th victory is a Rutgers squad that continues to improve. For much of the last decade, the Scarlet Knights were at best about a .500 team. During that stretch, Meredith Civico took over as head coach.
In every season since 2018, Rutgers has finished with a winning record. Last season, the Scarlet Knights took a big leap to reach the top 10 nationally. This past week, the Scarlet Knights have climbed to the No. 3 spot.
In 1987, Meharg took over as Maryland’s skipper. Since then, the Terps have won seven national championships and solidified themselves as one of the nation’s elite field hockey schools. And one of the many players she coached is Civico.
Since the former Terp took over at Rutgers in 2012, she has taken the Scarlet Knights from being a fringe-Atlantic 10 competitor to dominating in the Big Ten.
“Mer is a great leader. She’s a ruthless competitor,” Meharg said. “Her players have taken on her persona in that regard.”
Rutgers’ only losses this year came from No. 17 St. Joseph’s — where the Terps downed in double overtime in their season opener — and No. 1 Iowa. The Scarlet Knights have not had the easiest of schedules. Eight of their 10 victories have been against ranked opponents, including then-No. 3 Northwestern, No. 4 Penn State and No. 6 UConn.
They have been spreading the wealth this season, as their hot start has been a major team effort. Four different players are tied for the team lead with four goals and are among the 11 different players who have scored.
“They’re just a very driven and gritty group of people,” Maryland defender Riley Donnelly said. “They want to win. You can see it in their eyes when you play against them.”
Last spring, Rutgers came to College Park for a pair against the Terps. It was Maryland that took care of business — earning a weekend sweep against a top-10 Scarlet Knights squad.
Most of Rutgers’ players from that team have returned.
“We know these players,” Meharg said. “I don’t think there’s any surprise what we’re going to see.”