What is rivalry No. 1 for many of Maryland’s teams takes a second seat to North Carolina for the field hockey Terps.
But Friday afternoon, Maryland and Duke played like no one else mattered.
In what would an eventual 2-1 upset loss for second-seeded Maryland, both teams began quite slowly. The Terps’ offense, one of the best in the country, could get little going against Duke’s top-ranked defense. The ball stayed mostly in Maryland’s attacking half, however, and when they eventually drew a penalty corner, the team was determined to make it count.
While they couldn’t capitalize the first time around, Maryland earned a second consecutive corner and set up around the scoring circle in the game’s ninth minute. After some back and forth, defender Colleen Gulick found an opening to strike. She sent ball through the hole and into the cage’s back corner with a bang, giving the Terps an early lead.
But that was all they’d get. Both teams continued to struggle to make anything happen, and with just seven minutes left until halftime, neither team had more than two shots. But then the Blue Devils garnered their own penalty corner, and Rhian Jones slapped the ball into the net off an assist from teammate Emmie Le Marchand, knotting the score at one.
Le Marchand, who earned an ACC field hockey player of the week honor earlier this season, would add a second goal, the winning one, on a penalty corner early in the second half, this time with Jones assisting. The second-half corner was the polar opposite of many Terps’ corners, especially two at the very end of the game, as time ran out, where Maryland could not come through.
“Duke is a very strong team,” head coach Missy Meharg said. “They have tremendous speed in the midfield, and they were very opportunistic with their penalty corners, so I applaud them.”
The last time the two teams met, on Oct. 8, the Terps turned a 2-1 victory in College Park. But they were outplayed in every aspect besides the score—the Blue Devils led in shots, shots on goal, penalty corners, and even outdid the Terps in assists.
Today was opposite day. Maryland took more shots, more penalty corners, and spent a significant time on offense. They just could not translate that into victory. With five minutes remaining, Meharg pulled goalie Melissa Vassalotti to insert defender Christine Knauss, moving the rest of the team forward and giving the Terps an extra attacker on the field.
Fans were on their feet as the final penalty corners were played out after time expired. But when, on the final corner, the ball caromed out of bounds, out of the shooting circle—the Terps were out of the ACC Tournament.
“In those last six minutes, we put ourselves in position to tie the game,” Meharg said. “With this group, I’m surprised now we lost, to be honest. I believe in them, and I don’t think any of them are pleased with the outcome. I know I am certainly not, on behalf of the staff. But I believe in them.”
The ACC Tournament will conclude Sunday with a matchup between Duke and North Carolina. The Terps, though, must now look forward to the NCAA Tournament, which begins Nov. 12. In spite of their loss, they will likely be a number one seed heading into the annual contest.