The Maryland field hockey team arrived in East Lansing, Michigan, on Oct. 6 having lost three of its previous four contests. But the Terps, ignited by midfielder Lein Holsboer's score in the seventh minute, bounced back with a 4-1 win against Michigan State.
Coach Missy Meharg's team hasn't lost since.
The Terps' 3-0 victory against the Spartans at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Sunday extended their winning streak to seven games.
No. 2-seed Maryland will face No. 3-seed Penn State on Friday.
The Terps (13-5) struggled against the Spartans (8-11) after putting the game out of reach with two goals in the first three minutes, missing passes and failing to consistently communicate.
"It was a big thing that when we started at a high level to stay at that level," defender Carrie Hanks said. "It's hard when you score two quick goals to settle a little bit."
Less than 30 seconds into the game, Holsboer stood on the right side of the circle and scored to give Maryland an immediate lead. Then in the third minute, freshman midfielder Brooke DeBerdine recorded her first career goal. Extensive celebrations didn't follow. It seemed as if such production were expected.
But for the remainder of the first half, the Terps appeared complacent, allowing the Spartans to maintain possession.
Maryland recorded 34 shots in the contest yet wasted many of its opportunities.
A sequence with about 23 minutes remaining in the game encapsulated the Terps' shortcomings. DeBerdine drove into Maryland's offensive zone on the right side of the circle. Michigan State sent a defender in her direction, forcing DeBerdine to dish to forward Linnea Gonzales, who ranks third on the team with seven goals.
But Gonzales failed to score, giving the Spartans a chance to counterattack.
"Our counter defense can be a lot better," DeBerdine said. "We had moments today where we had a lot of good two-touch hockey. It's [doing] that throughout the whole game."
Until defender Bodil Keus scored off a penalty corner in the 55th minute to secure the win, Michigan State appeared poised for a comeback.
Maryland's inconsistent play came after one of its most complete performances this season. The Terps topped then-No. 21 Rutgers, 6-0, last weekend to close out the regular season.
The Spartans were unable to capitalize on Maryland's miscues, as they secured just five shots. The same might not be true of the Nittany Lions, who fell to the Terps in double overtime Oct. 15.
"The shots indicated you're dominant," Meharg said. "We continued to press. At that juncture, we got a little sloppy in the front third. We needed to stretch our defense deeper. They were obviously dangerous a couple of times in the end of the first half. That didn't need to happen."