Riley Donnelly scored late in the first half of a deadlocked contest, a penalty corner goal with one second remaining in the second quarter. The find came moments after the Buckeyes answered the Terps first goal to make it a 1-1 tie. Now, Maryland field hockey entered the break with a lead. 

The Terps failed to carry that momentum out of the break and into the third quarter. They were outshot 4-1 in the period and again allowed the opposition to even the score entering the fourth quarter. 

Donnelly was given a chance to retake the lead for the second time of the afternoon as the primary option on an early-fourth quarter penalty corner. A smooth stroke, like the one that produced Maryland’s second score, gave it its third. 

The senior defender came through both times she was called upon in the Big Ten quarterfinal match. Her two scores pushed the Terps to a 5-2 victory in their opening round contest. 

“This is exactly what I anticipated,” head coach Missy Meharg said.

The win is Maryland’s first in the conference tournament since 2018, snapping a three-year drought. Friday’s second round contest will be the first time it’s reached that stage since 2019, where it lost as a No. 1 seed after earning a first round bye.

[Maryland field hockey looks to rekindle offense ahead of Big Ten tournament]

The return of Emma DeBerdine was the difference that the Terps needed. Her absence over the last five games was felt most heavily in the midfield, where the team consistently struggled to move the ball in transition. 

With the senior midfielder back in the fold Thursday, the offense operated smoothly as opposed to the clunky look that was on display in recent weeks. 

“Her speed in the midfield just lends to every opportunity to be able to counter defend,” Meharg said. “She’s still getting her feet back. It’s been a while.”

Maryland tallied 13 shots on goal to Ohio State’s 7. That total is the Terps’ most in four games, when the team notched 14 shots on target in their win over Rutgers. 

Duke transfer Leah Crouse opened the scoring in her Big Ten tournament debut. She sat beside Ohio State goalkeeper Abby Danson as she saved a Danielle van Rootselaar penalty corner shot. 

The deflection bounced in Crouse’s direction, giving her an easy tap-in goal.

[Hope Rose is back from injury just in time for Maryland field hockey’s postseason]

The Buckeyes’ answer came moments later with less than two minutes to play in the opening half. It appeared the even score would carry into the intermission before Maryland capitalized on a last-second penalty corner chance. 

Donnelly scored on the Terps’ fifth penalty corner of the first half, which came with one second remaining on the clock. Donnelly fired her shot and the buzzer sounded as the ball flew through the air before meeting the back of the net. 

“As it was going, I was like, ‘Oh man, they set this up perfectly. They put it right where I need it,’” Donnelly said. “The feeling of the adrenaline is great and to go back on top really gives you that.”

The score that put Maryland back on top could have led to positive momentum entering the second half. The Terps instead came out flat and allowed another equalizing goal late in the period. 

Maryland wasn’t overmatched in the final frame. After Donnelly’s second goal, the Terps’ defense surrendered only two harmless shots on goal. Ohio State pulled its goalie with two minutes remaining, which allowed Hope Rose and van Rootselaar to score a pair of empty netters to separate even further. 

The late defensive dominance halted the Buckeyes’ ability to quickly answer each Maryland attempt at extending its leads. The Terps are now at full strength for the first time all season, empowering them to advance to the furthest point in the conference tournament in four years.

“This is the first time the entire season … that we’re all back,” Meharg said.