Field hockey defeats Rutgers to secure Big Ten title

Field Hockey vs. Rutgers
Photo by Lauren Anikis.

A second half offensive attack lifted Maryland to a 4-2 victory over Rutgers Saturday, and gave them sole possession of the Big Ten regular season title. On Senior Day in College Park, the Terps opened the afternoon by honoring the five seniors on the team, and wrapped it up by celebrating their third straight Big Ten title.

It was a complete team effort for the Terps, who got goals from four different players, including one from senior captain Welma Luus in the final regular season game of her college career.

Maryland fell behind early on an early goal by Rutgers forward Rachel Yaney, but quickly equalized the score in the 11th minute on Carrie Hanks’ second goal of the season. From here out, the Terps dominated in possession, taking 12 shots total in the first half while holding the Scarlet Knights without a shot after their early goal.

Maryland could not convert, however, as none of their final 11 shots could find the back of the net. They kept feeding the ball to Grace Balsdon on penalty corners, and while she took good shots, none of them amounted to anything, and the Terps went into the half tied 1-1.

“At halftime I just said whatever that team was just out there right now, let’s pretend we don’t know them and move on and play Maryland hockey,” Maryland head coach Missy Meharg said. “Halftime was good to have, and just to be able to make a few tactical adjustments.”

The adjustments worked, as the Terps came out of the half as a much more aggressive team. They immediately put pressure on the Rutgers defense, completing passes and getting the ball deep into the Rutgers zone. Just 11 seconds in, Luus found the back of the net on a pass from Sophie Pelzer to give Maryland a 2-1 advantage. Six minutes later, Pelzer found freshman Kelee Lepage, who scored her third goal of the season to extend the lead to 3-1. The Terps added another goal from freshman Madison Maguire later in the half.

“We were so connected in the second half, everyone came out firing and passing and moving,” Luus said. “The way we connected and did the work for each other was really good.”

The Terps kept up their stellar defensive effort as well, allowing just four second-half shots, three of which came after Maguire’s goal gave them a three-goal lead. The Scarlet Knights cut the lead to 4-2 late in the second half with a goal from Nikki Santore, but by then the Terps’ win and conference title were sealed. When all was said and done, Maryland had outshot Rutgers 22-5 to win their eighth straight game and finish the season at 15-3 (7-1 Big Ten).

With the regular season over, the Terps now look ahead to the Big Ten Tournament, which starts Thursday at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park.

“We have an amazing fan base, we always have so many people coming out, and I think that will help,” senior forward Emma Rissinger said about the advantage of playing the Big Ten Tournament at home.

They will face off against Rutgers again in the first round of the tournament Thursday at 3 p.m.

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