On Saturday, the No. 3 University of Maryland Terrapins field hockey held off a late charge against No. 7 Duke University. And they did it with defense.
Melissa Vassalotti, goalkeeper, in particular. The redshirt senior has so far this year split time with freshman Natalie Hunter, switching every week. But when head coach Missy Meharg reversed trend and started Vassalotti for the second week in a row, it paid off — in more ways than one.
Tuesday the ACC announced that Vassalotti had won ACC field hockey player of the week, the first time in her five years of play that she has received the award. Though senior captain Jemma Buckley’s two goals enabled Maryland’s ACC win, it was Vassalotti’s stellar cagework that made those goals stand up.
Vassalotti’s seven saves, one shy of her career high, helped the Terps (11-1, 4-0 ACC) stave off a strong second-half team in the Blue Devils (7-5, 2-2). In fact, Duke outshot Maryland 15-9 overall, including 10-5 after halftime. They also took 10 penalty corners to the Terps’ six.
Nearly half of Vassalotti’s seven saves came in the game’s last seven minutes.
“She played very well, very well,” Meharg said. “In fact, in many ways, I would say she got awarded player of the game by the staff.”
The ACC made sure that the Terps’ coaching staff wasn’t the only group to applaud the goalie’s effort. Vassalotti’s recognition marks the fourth time a Terp has been named player of the week so far this season. Buckley and attackers Maxine Fluharty and Jill Witmer also received the honor.
For Vassalotti, who started last year’s ACC tournament championship as well as the NCAA championship game, it will be just another of many important games, especially as Maryland looks ahead to their next match. On Friday, the Terps will host No. 1 Old Dominion, who handed the team their only loss so far this year.