In two of their previous three games the Maryland women's lacrosse team faced foes who sought to slow down the Terrapins high powered offense by possessing the ball for several minutes, running patient offensive sets, and shooting selectively. The visiting Virginia Cavaliers employed a similar strategy and met with a similar fate. Boston College and Princeton both fell one goal short of upsetting the number two team in the country losing 10-9 and 8-7 respectively. By comparison, Sunday's 13-8 Maryland win was something of a rout. "That's how it's been, forever," said a somewhat exasperated Coach Cathy Reese after the game. "It's a style that we see a lot when teams do possess the ball before they go to goal and we knew that coming in."
The fast vs. the slow
It requires three elements to comfortably counter this slowdown strategy: (1) control the draw; (2)protect the ball: and (3) build a lead of three or more goals. Beth Glaros picked up the ball on the opening draw completing the first requirement and raced down the field intent on quickly moving the Terps to establishing the third. However, her low bouncing shot hit the post. Taylor Cunmmings followed with another post knocker and Virginia corralled the ball. The Cavaliers got the good shot they sought on their counter but this time the crossbar provided protection for the home team.
A yellow card on UVA gave the Terps the only extra man opportunity of the game and they took advantage of the chance. Brooke Griffin found Cummings near the left post and the sophomore's bouncer trickled past Virginia goalie Liz Colgan crossing the line but never finding the net.
Though Maryland controlled the next draw, the squads traded quick turnovers in the center of the field and the Cavaliers knotted the score at one on a free position attempt. The tie score lasted just over a minute with the Terrapins' response beginning when Glaros again picked up the ground ball on the draw. Clearing the right side for Cummings, Maryland's offense gave the sophomore space to make a beautiful face dodge down the right alley to put the Terps back in front 2-1 with 21:33 to play in a low scoring first half.
The Cavs had a golden opportunity to get the equalizer when Courtney Swan controlled the draw and launched a long pass to Kelly Boyd who had gotten behind Maryland's defense. However, Abbey Clipp, who finished with ten saves on the day, contributed the first of several momentum stifling plays when she stuffed Boyd's point blank shot. The Terps pushed back quickly pressing to score quickly and thwart Virginia's strategy but Kelly McPartland's shot bounced high and the Cavaliers covered to retake possession.
Back and forth we go
Holding the ball for nearly two minutes the Cavaliers were finally able to draw a Terrapins' foul. Clipp again came up with the save to preserve Maryland's lead. This time, the save came against Swan who entered the game as Virginia's leading goal scorer. Clipp's teammates then rewarded her staunch defense of the goal as Griffin scored and the Terps opened a 3-1 lead.
Virginia won the draw and found some space in Maryland's defense relatively quickly and pulled within one with 16:27 to play in the half. The Terps needed all of fifteen seconds to respond. Zoe Stukenberg picked up the ball on the draw and was fouled. Both Cummings and Griffin had gotten behind the Cavaliers defense and two quick passes later Griffin had again put Maryland up by two.
Virginia struck back, closing to 4-3, with Boyd scoring on a pass from Swan on another possession that lasted nearly two minutes. It looked as though lightening had stuck again for Maryland as Stukenberg found the back of the net just ten seconds after the Cavaliers' goal. However, the goal was disallowed for an illegal stick. The Terps were undaunted by this bit of bad fortune and, after Shanna Brady caused a turnover, Halle Majorana stuck it in the back of the net and again, the Terps led by two.
Swing high.Swing low.
The seesaw continued this time shifting back to Virginia. Maryland, who had been rotating defenders on Swan for much of the half, lost her in a cut down the middle. Her teammate Boyd did not lose her and Swan ripped home the one timer to pull the Cavs back within one. Virginia then tied the score at five using over four minutes on the clock before Swan made a one on one move to get by her defender and score.
Needing just over a minute on the clock, the Terps recaptured the lead as Majorana initiated from behind the goal to Griffin who scored on a play that looked very much like the one that had burned Maryland a minute earlier.
Beth Glaros picked up the ball on the draw for Maryland but a stick check by Swan knocked the ball free. Swan picked up the ground ball and attacked but for the fifth time in the half Clipp provided a solid last line of defense and she preserved the Terps' lead. With about 30 seconds to play in the half, it looked as though Maryland might take a two goal lead into the break. Glaros found Majorana just in front of the crease but Virginia's defense closed quickly and got just enough of her crosse to allow Colgan to make the easy save. The Cavaliers were then able to turn that around and score with six seconds left to square the score at six all at the half.
Striking an early blow
By the time the second half was fifteen seconds old, the Terps killed any momentum that Cavs might have had coming out of the break. Maryland won the opening draw and McPartland passed to Griffin whose fourth goal of the game put the Terrapins up by one. But a one goal lead isn't enough to force an opponent out of the slowdown strategy. The Cavs demonstrated this when they won the draw, controlled the ball for four and a half minutes and evened the score at seven on only their second shot of the possession.
And still the teeter totter ride continued. Majorana scored on an assist from McPartland. Eight to seven Maryland. After two missed Terrapins' shots and a two minute Cavaliers possession, Casey Bocklet scored for Virginia to make it eight all. Over the next five minutes of play, Clipp made a save for Maryland and Colgan made a save for Virginia on a Terrapins free position attempt. The fans were still on edge because the post also made two more saves for Virginia preventing the Terps from opening any breathing room and the clock was ticking down.
What the fans couldn't know at that point was that Virginia's goal with 16:53 to play would be their last of the game. "We gave up two goals in the second half and that was way better," Reese said. "In the first half, Virginia did a nice job working the ball around and when we got a little complacent they scored and scored pretty easily. In the second half we had doubles on challenges pretty quickly and were better on cutters. We were just a little more aggressive." And the Terps accomplished that without fouling as the Cavaliers would not have a free position attempt in the period.
The Erin Collins show
It was Beth Glaros who inally broke through for the Terps. Beginning her run from just outside the twelve meter arc and making a dodge to her left, she ripped a shot into the net. At this juncture, the play of Erin Collins became critical for Maryland. Collins picked up each of the next three draws. The first led to a score by Stukenberg with 11:11 to play and coming just twenty-six seconds after Glaros' goal. With a two goal lead at 10-8, the Terrapins continued to attack though they did so more patiently. Colgan came up with two saves for the Cavs but in neither case could the visitors clear the ball into their offensive zone. This eventually proved costly as Cummings, beginning a long run from just inside the twenty-seven meter line, sliced through Virginia's defense to ring up her third goal on the day.
With Collins continuing her work on the draw, the Terps continued to use the clock effectively lengthening their 11-8 lead by shortening the game. The Cavaliers had to chase aggressively on defense and Maryland would find two more scoring opportunities with Jen Mendez spotting Stukenberg in space as she cut in front of the goal for the first and Griffin closing the scoring with twenty-two seconds left on an open shot that she looked reluctant to take to provide the final 13-8 margin for Maryland.
WIth the win, Maryland moves to 15-1 on the season and sits in a three way tie with North Carolina and Syracuse for the top spot in the ACC at 5-1. The Terps close out the ACC regular season when they host the Virginia Tech Hokies (7-7, 0-5) on Saturday, April 19 at noon. North Carolina hosts Duke and Syracuse travels to Notre Dame to close out their ACC seasons. Saturday will also be senior day for Maryland as they will honor a five player senior class.