Sammy Popper faced the net as the Terps set up for their second penalty corner of the NCAA Tournament. The graduate student received an insert from Margot Lawn and drove the ball from the top of the shooting circle into the back of the net.
Popper’s score in the opening frame was her first of two on Friday. She was a key factor in Maryland’s 3-0 opening-round NCAA tournament victory over Old Dominion. The Terps will host the winner of Saint Joseph’s and Virginia in the NCAA quarterfinals on Sunday.
“Their penalty corner defense, much like ours, was leading the country in terms of percentage as a unit on their goaltending and their attack penalty corner,” coach Missy Meharg said. “I was pleased with our defensive penalty corner, and certainly our goaltending and then our opportunities.”
Maryland’s performance in regular season conference play and the Big Ten tournament, in which the Terps made it to the championship match, helped it clinch the four-seed and hosting privileges in the national tournament.
Old Dominion (14-6) penetrated Maryland’s shooting circle early on as the Terps’ defense broke down in the opening minutes. Coach Missy Meharg’s squad regained their composure halfway through the opening frame and earned their first penalty corner, which resulted in their first shot on goal, six minutes into the game.
The Terps’ first scoring opportunity fell short, but their second penalty corner of the game just minutes later got them on the board first. Popper’s early score was her first since her goal in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament against Iowa.
“That was obviously something we focused a lot on going into the game, because sometimes games are decided on corners,” Popper said. “It’s just the mental focus to put in corners, but obviously during corners it’s a full team effort. So I think we did great with the pressure into the circle.”
She didn’t have to wait as long for her next. The teams remained even-paced until Popper doubled Maryland’s advantage in the second quarter from another penalty corner. She scored from two of the Terps’ three earned penalty corners in the first half.
In the same penalty corner setup as the first goal, Lawn dished the ball to Popper, who waited at the top of the circle. She fired a shot into the bottom left corner of the cage for her 10th goal of the season, tied for the second-highest total on the team.
As the match progressed, Maryland (18-5) worked to seamlessly connect its deep defensive line to its forwards up top. Nathalie Fiechter held down the backline in the center and consistently found Hannah Boss to transition the ball into the midfield. Boss kept the full field flow and used sweeping passes to split the Monarchs’ offense and find Margot Lawn in the attacking half.
“The game plan was to move the ball,” Meharg said. “And then the other game plan, which I thought we did very well, was the midfielders to the forwards putting enough pressure on the ball carrier so that the people can intercept.”
The Monarchs kept high-intensity pressure on the Terps, but their quick passing game made Old Dominion’s efforts ineffective. Maryland used short passes to quickly move up the field late in the third quarter. Lawn, the provider of the Terps’ first two goals, found her way through the swarm of Monarch defenders to get one of her own.
A pass from Anna Castaldo deep on the left side of Maryland’s attacking half reached Lawn in the center of the shooting circle. Facing away from the net, Lawn shifted sideways and used her stick to slide the ball past the goalie and into the bottom right corner of the net.
Alyssa Klebasko notched six saves to secure a shutout against Old Dominion and ensure Lawn and Popper’s goals would be enough for the Terps to progress to the next round of the NCAA tournament.
“We’re going to watch the match again,” Meharg said. “We’re going to recover, and the coaching staff is going to have a look at this game and we’ll see what our plans are. We’ve got a couple of ways to play.”