Maryland field hockey lost to Princeton two weeks ago, the team’s first defeat of the season after a 7-0 start. The Terps fell in overtime on a Tigers penalty corner goal that resulted in the only blemish on their record.
Since that game, the Terps have won four consecutive games, three of which went to overtime.
The loss has become a turning point in the Terps’ season. Coach Missy Meharg quickly identified and corrected her team’s issues that led to the defeat and fixed them in practice over the following days.
How far it has propelled the Terps was best exemplified in their two latest wins. They took down No. 3 Iowa and No. 2 Northwestern on the road Friday and Sunday, respectively.
Danielle van Rootselaar delivered the game winners in overtime in both matches, pushing her to a Big Ten offensive player of the week nomination and giving Maryland its first wins over higher-ranked opponents this season.
The Terps leapfrogged the Hawkeyes and Wildcats in this week’s NFHCA poll as a result, going from fourth to second in the country behind North Carolina. The No. 2 ranking is Maryland’s highest since November 2019, and its 11 wins on the season are most in the nation, two more than the top-ranked Tar Heels.
Even more influential for Maryland as the postseason quickly approaches is its standing in the Big Ten.
The Terps are a perfect 5-0 in conference play with three more Big Ten squads left on the schedule. The winning stretch of play includes wins over ranked Ohio State and Michigan squads, a 7-2 drubbing of Michigan State and the two impressive triumphs this weekend.
Maryland’s defeat of Iowa was the Hawkeyes’ first loss in the Big Ten, dropping them out of undefeated status. Penn State, who Maryland faces later this month in a bout that could decide the conference’s top seed, is second in the conference.
Meharg knows how desirable the time off that’s granted to the conference’s No. 1 seed via an opening round bye is. Maryland, as the sixth seed, fell to the Nittany Lions in the first round of the Big Ten tournament last season.
“You play two games in a weekend instead of three,” Meharg said.
The loss to Princeton was the Terps’ first overtime test of the season. Since then, inexperience has turned into confidence.
Maryland has taken three games that needed overtime en route to a Big Ten-best 11-1 record through Meharg’s adjustments, which have proved crucial.
“Practicing it against Princeton gave us the opportunity to beat Michigan and to beat Iowa,” Meharg said.
Even players’ mindsets entering overtime have flipped. What was previously a collective feeling of anxiety during the short break of time following the fourth quarter has now become relaxing and stress-free.
Maryland players danced and laughed prior to going to overtime with the Hawkeyes, largely because of how sure the Terps were that a favorable result seemed inevitable.
“Overtime is Terp time,” van Rootselaar said. “Everyone’s excited when we get to overtime and we know we’re going to win … There’s just no one on our team who doesn’t believe we’re going to win, because we are going to win.”
Preparedness for overtime has swept through the Terps. The newfound attitude while playing tight and stressful games against top teams has led them to four straight victories, the most wins in Division 1 and a No. 2 ranking.
Most importantly, Maryland controls its own destiny as it chases the Big Ten’s coveted top seed. “The team that gets No. 1 in this league actually gets by,” Meharg said. “That’s a big fight for that. Everybody’s fighting for that.”