Todd Carton – When the horn sounded to end the first half of Maryland’s 13-8 win over the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park Thursday night, an analyst looking only at the statistics could reasonably been surprise to learn that the Terrapins held a 5-3 edge on the scoreboard. The visitors trailed only in draw controls – where Maryland held a 6-3 advantage – saves (5-4 Terps) and ground balls (8-7 Maryland). On the other side of the ledger, Maryland had eight turnovers to Penn State’s four, 14 fouls to Penn State’s five, 15 shots to Penn State’s 16 and three failed clears to none for the Nittany Lions.
When the Terps cleaned up those problems in the second half, they were able to build an insurmountable 11-4 lead with 9:21 to play. As stifling as the Terrapins’ defense played in the first half, they were even more aggressive in the second. The Terps bested Penn State both on the scoreboard and in the stat lines. Maryland forced the Nittany Lions into nine turnovers, held them to five clears on seven attempts, picked up a 7-4 edge in ground balls and even cut down on the fouls with Maryland being whistled for four to Penn State’s seven.
So how did the Terps do it? In three words: shut down defense. With Megan Taylor returning to form as one of the nation’s premier goalkeepers, Maryland held Penn State scoreless for more than 13 minutes in the first half. After Maggie Gallagher scored for the visitors with 5:08 to play in the first half, the Terrapins defense became a Terra-pain to Penn State holding the high powered Nittany Lions offense without a goal for nearly 22 minutes.
Penn State entered the game with three players – Katie O’Donnell, Madison Carter and Maria Auth – each averaging more than three goals per game. While O’Donnell scored six times, Maryland shut out the other two. Some of that is clearly attributable to Taylor’s five saves but some was also a result of Maryland forcing Penn State into poor shots and also to the hustle of Meghan Doherty, the redshirt sophomore, who at least twice beat Penn State to cover a missed shot.
The Terps also dominated Carter in the draw circle. Carter entered the game averaging more than six draw controls per game. The combination of Hartshorn and Colson, who had six each helped the Terps build a 14-9 edge and hold Carter to just two. The Terps were so effective in controlling Carter that Penn State coach Missy Doherty tried substituting Kayla Brisolari. She fared a bit better winning four draws.
Both defenses deserve credit for crashing in on free position shots. The Terps only had four opportunities and converted just one. On the other hand, Maryland was even better. They held Penn State to only one of nine.
After an unforced turnover on their first possession, Maryland took a 2-0 lead on goals by Kali Hartshorn and Grace Griffin. Back to back goals by O’Donnell tied the score at two for the game’s only tie. The Terps regained the lead on Griffin’s second score of the night and a goal by Caroline Steele. The game remained scoreless for more than 11 minutes until Gallagher’s goal.
Maryland’s all-time leading goal scorer, Megan Whittle, scored with 28 seconds to play and, on the offensive end, the game became the Megan Whittle show for the next 16 minutes. With Maryland’s defense continuing to squeeze Penn State’s offense, Whittle scored three more times – each more creative and determined than the one before – in the first 16 minutes of the second half. Brindi Griffin added a score in a 5-0 Terrapins run that built Maryland’s lead to 9-3. Whittle finished with five goals on the night.
Grace Griffin, who is emerging as a star in her freshman campaign, turned from scorer in the first half to facilitator in the second. Griffin assisted on three of the Terps’ final four goals including a pass to Catie May – another highly regarded freshman – for May’s first career goal as a Terp.
The Terps return to action Thursday April 26 when they host Northwestern in a game that will determine the conference champions and one that looks like it will be a game between two teams undefeated in conference play.