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No. 8 Maryland women’s lacrosse vs. No. 10 Virginia preview

The Terps will head to Charlottesville, Virginia, for the first of two top-25 matchups over the next week.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

The Maryland women’s lacrosse team got off to a seamless start in its 2022 campaign.

A 20-6 victory over Saint Joseph’s set the tone for the type of depth and versatility Maryland has on the offensive end. Eleven different Terps scored, including Johns Hopkins transfer Aurora Cordingley, who notched a game-high five goals.

The attack was fluid and featured a plethora of legitimate threats that could be No. 1 options almost anywhere in the country.

“[Aurora] is dangerous all over and she’s just great to play with because she’s aware,” attacker Hannah Leubecker said. “She helps direct everybody so it definitely helps to have that fifth year leadership on offense.”

Carrying over the momentum from the season opener will be crucial as the Terps head to Charlottesville. There awaits the tenth-ranked Virginia Cavaliers who are fresh off of a 13-goal rout of the California Golden Bears.

“We’re still figuring out combinations of people who will work best against what style of defense,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “I don’t know what they’ll throw at us and my job is to make sure my team is prepared for all of it.”

The opening draw for Friday evening’s showdown is set for 5 p.m. and can be watched on the ACC Network.

Virginia Cavaliers (2-0)

2021 record: 9-9 (3-7 ACC)

Head coach Julie Meyers enters her 27th season at the helm of the Cavaliers program. The legend’s resume speaks for itself, as Myers has guided Virginia to the NCAA Tournament every season of her tenure (aside from the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season). Her 300 career wins and all but four weeks ranked in IWLCA’s Coaches Poll over her 27 years speaks volumes to Meyers’ impact on collegiate women’s lacrosse. The only flaw on Meyers’ resume is a 1-7 record in the national championship game, with the consistent Cavaliers program last winning in 2004.

Players to know

Senior attacker Ashlyn McGovern (No. 16) — Virginia’s leading scorer from last season started in 13 of her 17 appearances. The Phoenix, Maryland, native accumulated 80 goals in the three years with the program and has added four more in two games this season. Her 38 goals from last season placed her in the ACC’s top-10, yet her play has gone largely underrated considering her lone accolade is an ACC Co-Offensive Player of the Week in 2020.

Sophomore attacker Morgan Schwab (No. 14) — One player that has made waves in her early exposure to the collegiate game is McGovern’s sidekick on the attack. Schwab is a jack of all trades and her 2022 season has been off to a tremendous start. On the year, Schwab has tallied ten points on three goals and seven assists.

Senior midfielder Annie Dyson (No. 19) — Aside from graduated defender Meredith Chapman, Dyson was the lone All-ACC selection for the Cavaliers last season. The second-teamer is the same player as Schwab — just with added experience. In 2021, Dyson placed third on the team in goals with 25, snagged 56 draw controls, corralled 34 ground balls and caused 20 turnovers. Dyson has been a steady riser among Virginia’s ranks but has been off to somewhat of a slow start to her standards with two goals and seven draw controls.

Strength

Consistency across the field. Forcing turnovers may be Virginia’s weakness, but overall this team is consistent in every facet of the game. There’s a reason they’re ranked top-10 in the country. Virginia isn’t sensational in one category, nor are they putrid in others. They tow a fine line among the ACC’s top competition, which allows them to be a steady threat.

Weakness

Forcing turnovers. If there is one knock on Virginia’s on-field performance it is its caused turnover numbers. Virginia placed dead last in the ACC in causing turnovers. Despite Dyson leading the charge on the midfield defense, they were worlds behind the other NCAA Tournament teams in the conference. So far in two games this season they are averaging slightly above last season’s 6.44 per game mark, but that should change against a poised team like Maryland.

Three things to watch

1. The junior class’ return to top-notch nonconference opponents. Players such as attacker Libby May and midfielder Shaylan Ahearn have gotten a fraction of the full collegiate lacrosse experience as juniors. Their freshman seasons were nixed early due to the coronavirus and last season featured just Big Ten play. Now embarking on to its first ranked nonconference showdown since March 4, the juniors will have plenty to prove on Friday with regards to its leadership.

“I think being a year older and having to step into more of a leadership role has been really helpful for my play,” May said. “Staying confident, helping my teammates, bringing up the freshmen and anybody that I can help.”

2. How will the Terps respond on defense? Last week’s outing showed off Maryland’s prowess on both ends of the field, but it’s a safe assumption to say Virginia is much more of a threat on the offensive end than Saint Joe’s. After allowing six goals last week, Maryland will face a tougher task this week. Defender Abby Bosco was phenomenal in her debut with the Terps, as was junior goalkeeper Emily Sterling. It’ll be each player’s first exposure to the Maryland-Virginia rivalry, and the response on defense should set the tone for the matchup.

“We want to step up to the challenge,” Reese said. “At the end of the day it’s not about the outcome. I’m a big believer in if we can take care of the details and the little parts of the game, the rest will take care of itself.”

3. Maryland-Virginia rivalry. The return of a nonconference schedule marks the return of key rivalries that have been built over the years. From Maryland’s time in the ACC, Virginia has been one the mainstays in the Terps’ slate. Across 60 meetings, the Terps have secured victories in 43 of those and are currently riding a 13-game win streak against the Cavaliers. The most recent outing on April 3, 2019, was a 16-6 victory for Maryland, which made Reese the all-time winningest coach in program history.