Sept. 20, 2013
With Maryland and Rutgers set to officially join the Big Ten in July 2014, all various sports and teams speculate on its impact to the expanded league. Perhaps none more so than the field hockey community, where Maryland is a perennial national power, winning five of the last eight NCAA championships and seven total under head coach Missy Meharg.
Michigan's rivalry with Maryland has admittedly been somewhat lopsided over its history, with the Terrapins carrying an 11-1 advantage in the series since its first meeting in 1998. But that series record could be somewhat deceiving; eight of 12 previous meetings were decided by two goals or less.
The teams faced each other for the NCAA championship twice in a three-year span from 1999-2001. Maryland held on to claim the former meeting, 2-1, while the Wolverines took the latter, 2-0, using goals from Adrienne Hortillosa and Kristin Gannon and an 11-save effort from goalkeeper Maureen Tasch to capture Michigan's first NCAA team championship in a women's sport.
"Playing them is always been great competition," said head coach Marcia Pankratz. "They have a wonderful program. Our games with them are always very close and often go to the last minute of the game. That's fun and exciting, and I think everyone enjoys being in games like that. We always look forward to a good game against those guys. So, it's only good for the Big Ten, and it only helps us. We enjoy competing at the highest level. We enjoy the challenge, and it should be a great rivalry next year and into the future."
While the Michigan-Maryland rivalry has featured close contests with much on the line, the Wolverines' series history with Rutgers has been brief. The two programs have only faced each other on two previous occasions -- once in 1992 and again in 2000 -- and Michigan claimed both meetings by 2-0 scores.
Rutgers has appeared in just two NCAA Tournaments and not since 1986. It has only claimed one winning season in the last 14 years. But second-year head coach Meredith Long -- a former Maryland All-American -- has the Scarlet Rutgers moving in the right direction. Her 2012 team posted nine wins, the second most over that difficult 14-year span. So far this season, Rutgers is 3-3, with two of its losses coming by one goal against nationally-ranked opponents.
"I know we've played them once or twice here and there, but Rutgers will be a pretty new opponent for us," said Pankratz. "Meredith is a good coach, and they are on the rise. Obviously, they're located in New Jersey, which is a hotbed for field hockey, so they're going do really well in recruiting. We expect some strong competition from Rutgers in the years ahead. No doubt about that."
With the rise of several Big Ten programs over the years and the parity across the league, there has been some debate over which conference can claim supremacy -- Big Ten or ACC. With next year's expansion, Pankratz believes the answer will be clear.
"Right now as it stands, the RPI is really close between the Big Ten and ACC," she said. "We have seven teams as opposed to their five, and our seven teams are frequently all ranked in the top 20. That's on a continual, yearly basis. So, top to bottom, I don't think any conference is tougher than the Big Ten. Add Maryland and Rutgers to the mix, it will be the premier conference -- without a question."
Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423