Terps cruise past Hokies 14-9 to reach ACC Tournament semi-final

USA TODAY Sports

Halle Majorana led Maryland with four goals. Taylor Cummings picked up a hat trick. Beth Glaros and Zoe Stukenberg each added two in the Terps 14-9 win over Virginia Tech as they took their first step toward a sixth consecutive ACC Tournament title.

The ACC women's lacrosse tournament got underway at Alumni Stadium on the campus of Boston College Thursday morning and the Maryland Terrapins opened their quest for an eleventh ACC Tournament title facing off against the Virginia Tech Hokies - a team they walloped 22-12 five days earlier in the regular season's finale at College Park. Maryland won the first ACC Tournament in 1997 and is looking to leave the league with bookend tourney titles. That journey began with a 14-9 win over the Hokies on a very windy Boston day.

Building an early lead

The game started a bit inauspiciously for Maryland when Taylor Cummings jumped the official's whistle giving the Hokies the game's first possession. Virginia Tech turned that into an early free position but Abby Clipp, who would finsh the day with seven saves, came up with her first - a high save of a point blank shot from straight on. Turning things around quickly and Zoe Stukenberg took advantage of the possession and quickly picked up a free position chance of her own and the Terps had an early 1-0 lead.

Cummings won the next draw and after two missed Maryland shots, the latter of which was backed up by Tech, Megan Douty scooped up her first of three ground balls on the day on the attempted clear. After the Terps settled into their offense, Cummings converted on a spin move to give the top seed a two goal lead.

Continuing their strong defense and relentlessly balanced attack, by the time the game was twelve minutes old Maryland's margin had had ballooned to 6-0 with six different players scoring. Following the goals by Stukenberg and Cummings, Kelly McPartland came straight down the field after a Virginia Tech turnover to score. Then the Terps starting finding holes and moving the ball well against the Hokies' defense. Erin Collins, Beth Glaros, and Halle Majorana picked up goals and while Majorana assisted on the first two goals, Stukenberg returned the favor by assisting on Majorana's tally.

Perhaps a bit overconfident

In the middle of the half, the Terrapins hit a bit of a hiccup as the Hokies gained a little confidence when they finally broke through Abbey Clipp and a swarming Maryland defense to register their first score with 13:31 to play in the half. Though the Terps won the draw, their shot selection turned a bit predictable and Tech's goalie Meagh Graham came up with the save. The Hokies countered and scored their second straight to trail by four.

The teams essentially traded scores over the final twelve and a half minutes with Cummings picking up two goals for the Terps to ring up her tenth hat trick of the season. Glaros ripped the net for her second of the day on a low driving shot as she fell to the turf and Kristen Lamon took a pass from McPartland to wrap up Maryland's scoring for the half.

However despite the 10-5 lead, Coach Cathy Reese had one particular area she could use to draw her team's focus at the half. The Terps out shot the Hokies 18 to 8 and had an edge in ground balls and caused turnovers but the Terps only controlled seven of the sixteen draws. As the competition stiffens and they move forward in the tournament, this is an area where Maryland will need to improve.

Putting the game away early in the second half

The Terrapins came roaring out of the gate in the second half scoring twice in the first four and a half minutes and ringing the bell for a third consecutive score before the ten minute mark. The eight goal cushion gave Reese exactly what she would have wanted going into the game - a chance to rest most of her starting lineup in advance of the quick turn around and Friday's game against Virginia who defeated Duke 7-5 on Thursday.

Just as she had in the first half, Zoe Stukenberg got the Terps started in the the second half. Maryland had turned the ball over after controlling the opening draw but after a long Virginia Tech possession, the Terrapins countered quickly and Brooke Griffin, starting the play from behind the goal, saw Stukenberg slicing down the middle for a quick catch, shoot, and score. Thirty-two seconds later, Majorana banged home her second of the game circling from behind the net to make space on the right side and ripping the shot inside the far post.

Majorana picked up a hat trick when she took a long pass from Alice Mercer who had caused a turnover in the midfield on an attempted Tech clear.  The sophomore was behind the defense and took three or four steps to score on the one on one chance.

Reserve clause

With a comfortable 13-5 lead, Reese began using a mix of starters and reserves. Virginia Tech scored on a free position but the Terps answered with another great effort from Majorana. Hokies' goalie Meagh Graham picked up the eighth of her nine saves on the day on a shot by Majorana. However, the sophomore didn't give up on the play and as Graham came far out of the crease in her clearing effort, the Terrapins' attacker forced the Tech goalie toward the sideline before jarring the ball free with a strong stick check from behind. Majorana then picked up the ground ball she had caused and attacked the essentially empty net for the easy score and a 14-6 Maryland margin. The goal gave her four for the day and marked her second consecutive four goal game against Virginia Tech. She added two assists to lead Maryland in points with six.

Reese then pulled most of her starters to the sideline. In all, twenty-five Terps saw action in the contest. While the Terps looked to slow the game down, the Hokies continued to attack whenever possible. As they had in Sunday's game, the Hokies were able to pick up some scores over the final ten and a half minutes to reach the deceptively close 14-9 final score.

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