Maryland field hockey’s offense, a unit that dominated all regular season, has suddenly fizzled at the worst possible time.
The Terps have been outshot by their opponent three times this season, all coming in the last three games. Coach Missy Meharg’s squad is scoring fewer than two goals per game over that stretch after scoring an average of four per contest through the first 15 games of the season.
But Meharg doesn’t allow herself to become distracted by the details inside games. Wins and losses are all that matter to her.
“I’m always so amazed when I look at stats,” she said. “It just doesn’t matter.”
Maryland’s recently tough schedule is likely the main contributor to its offensive shortcomings. Its last three opponents are ranked No. 3, No. 5 and No. 14 in the latest NFHCA poll. Penn State handed the Terps just their second loss of the season while Virginia and UConn gave formidable fights.
[Hope Rose is back from injury just in time for Maryland field hockey’s postseason]
A matchup at Ohio State in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament looms. While the difficulty of the opponents won’t decrease, Maryland does get to face a team it’s already beaten this season in a venue it’s already won at in the opening round.
The Terps beat the Buckeyes in Columbus, 4-2, in a September game, where Meharg said her team did not play up to its capabilities.
Ohio State is more or less the same team it was two months ago, Meharg said. However, Maryland will be without one of its top contributors. Emma DeBerdine hasn’t played since Oct. 7 with an undisclosed injury and has no timetable for a return, putting her availability for the postseason in doubt.
DeBerdine brought stability to the Terps’ midfield that has occasionally lacked her speed and quickness. Maryland had an especially tough time advancing the ball to the forward line in games against Penn State and UConn.
Without DeBerdine, the Terps’ offense enters the postseason playing at their worst. They’ve still won, but not in their previous dominant fashion.
“We found a way [to win] without a key player,” Meharg said. “We’ve done pretty darn well with it … We’re very gritty, very high resolve.”
[No. 2 Maryland field hockey fends off No. 13 UConn in double-overtime, 2-1]
The Terps haven’t won a game in the Big Ten tournament since 2018, the last time they won the conference’s postseason trophy. Their No. 1 seed in 2019 was spoiled with a first-round upset loss followed by more opening round defeats in 2020 and 2021.
They hope to end that streak and their offensive woes against a team they beat two months ago and have never lost to.
It’ll fall on Meharg to develop an offensive plan of attack that can move forward from its recent struggles and succeed without the star midfielder. The coach said her knowledge will be needed more when playing a team that has already seen Maryland play.
“It’s more exciting and it’s more tactical,” Meharg said. “There’s more coaching involved in it.”
The 35-year veteran coach seems confident in her abilities. The scoring power on display through the bulk of the season could return with her sound strategy and execution from players in the pursuit of a Big Ten crown.
“I’ve said all along, I don’t think we’ve hit our ceiling yet,” Meharg said.