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Previewing the 2022 season for No. 9 Maryland women’s lacrosse

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Two All-American transfers headline one of Maryland’s deepest teams in recent years.

Courtesy of Maryland Athletics
UMTerps

Last season didn’t go quite as planned for Maryland women’s lacrosse.

After opening the season as the seventh-ranked team in the country, Maryland dropped its season opener on the road to Penn State. It was a pair of firsts for head coach Cathy Reese — with the Terps starting off at 0-1 for the first time during her historic tenure and losing their first-ever Big Ten regular season match.

Maryland seemed to be putting that one loss behind them after winning five in a row, but it then ran into All-American attacker Izzy Scane and Northwestern. The Wildcats had Maryland’s number twice, winning by a combined 23 goals in a two-game series.

After the pair of losses, the Terps seemed to unravel due to a stretch of inconsistent performances. They went 2-2 following the weekend trip to Evanston, flashing prowess on both sides of the ball, but never being able to find cohesiveness.

Another trip to the NCAA Tournament was in store for the Terps, but a second-round exit to Duke ended its season on a sour note.

The trek back to normalcy is nearly finished. While the coronavirus is still lurking around, Maryland will return to its normal slate of nonconference dogfights before heading into Big Ten play.

With the team’s youngsters having been battle-tested over the past two seasons, plus the additions of talented veterans, this season’s roster has been constructed to be right in the thick of things come May.

Key losses

As much as the Terps benefitted from its offseason roster moves, there were a few losses along the way. One of the more profound departures for the program was that of Brindi Griffin, who had been a staple of Maryland women’s lacrosse for the past five seasons.

After choosing to stay for a fifth year, the two-time captain ended the season tied for second-most in points. A four-game stretch to start April saw Griffin deliver four straight hat tricks, helping bring her career total to 135 goals across 91 games.

Another major loss was Lizzie Colson, who was named the IWLCA Defender of the Year in her final season in College Park. She led the nation in causing turnovers with 49 and led the team with 80 draw controls and 59 ground balls. Colson was the best defender in the country in 2021 and she was a big reason for a lot of Maryland’s victories this past year.

While attacker Libby May will carry on the May legacy in College Park, her sister Catie had to say goodbye to the program after a career year in 2021. The older May sister dished out a career-high 22 assists, with many of them coming from her signature spot behind the net. May still managed to score 16 goals, another career-high, bringing her point total to 38.

Returning players

Two massive returnees — midfielder Grace Griffin and defender Tori Barretta — will be tasked as the team captains for this upcoming season.

Griffin scored at least one goal across the final seven games of the season. She has been a fixture of Maryland’s lineup since her freshman year, accumulating a pair of All-Big Ten selections and 147 points on 106 goals and 41 assists over her illustrious career.

While Griffin was a captain last season, Barretta will be stepping into the role for the first time. Barretta replaces Colson as the de-facto leader of Maryland’s typically stout backline. After making two starts in the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season, Barretta broke out after starting all 17 games in 2021, causing 19 turnovers.

Additionally, the star-studded 2019 recruiting class will finally be unleashed for a full slate of games. A six-game 2020 followed by a conference-only slate is all these juniors have under their belts. But the adversity this class has gone through should pay dividends in 2022.

Attacker Hannah Leubecker will be looking to follow up her 58-goal tally in 2021 with another goal-scoring exhibition in 2022. While May, who exploded for 11 points on nine goals in the NCAA Tournament, should be as comfortable as ever entering her third year as one of Maryland’s top attackers.

Midfielder Shaylan Ahearn collected 61 draw controls for the Terps last year. While the Second Team All-Big Ten recipient is a standout in this department, she is a jack of all trades, having tallied 12 goals, two assists (14 points), ten ground balls and six caused turnovers as a full-time starter last year.

Lastly, goalkeeper Emily Sterling established herself as the clear-cut starter in net in 2021 and will hope to make bigger strides this season. The Bel-Air, Maryland, product totaled 129 saves and collected the most ground balls by a Maryland goalkeeper since 2007 with 36.

One more returnee to keep an eye on is midfielder Eloise Clevenger. The sophomore was Inside Lacrosse’s No. 14 recruit in 2020 and she showed flashes in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament with two goals and an assist. Clevenger will look to build on her breakout performance in year two.

New additions

The story of Maryland’s offseason was the ability to land some outstanding transfers.

The prize addition was former Johns Hopkins attacker Aurora Cordingley. In the three showdowns last season, the All-American was a thorn in Maryland’s side, accumulating eight goals. She ranks in the top-10 in total points in Johns Hopkins history and should become an immediate factor for the Terps in her lone exposition in College Park.

Another top-notch transfer was that of Abby Bosco. There hasn’t been much to see of Bosco as of late, as the former Penn defender has played in just one game over the past two years due to the Ivy League’s cancellation of spring sports. Still, the All-American’s innate ability to force turnovers and retrieve ground balls should come as close to mirroring Colson as Maryland could get in the transfer market.

Additional transfers to the Terps’ program include Princeton’s Natalie Pansini, North Carolina’s Shannon Smith and Albany’s Clancy Rheude — with the latter of the three being ruled out for the season due to an ACL tear.

Maryland was also able to land a trio of Inside Lacrosse top-10 recruits in the Class of 2021: Midfielders Jordyn Lipkin (No. 8), Demma Hall (No. 3) and Maddy Sterling (No. 2), the younger sister of Emily.

Looking forward

With the reintroduction of a nonconference schedule, Maryland will be able to rehash some old rivalries that haven’t been seen since before the pandemic began.

The season kicks off in Philadelphia with a road contest against the A-10’s Saint Joseph’s at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12.

The Terps then brace for a two-game stretch of ranked matchups. First, the Terps hit the road to go up against No. 11 Virginia on Friday, Feb. 18, at 5 p.m. Then, on Saturday, Feb. 26, at noon, Maryland plays its home opener against No. 10 Florida — the team that ended the Terps’s 86-game home winning streak on Feb. 15, 2020.

Along with Virginia and Florida, Maryland will play three other nonconference opponents ranked in Inside Lacrosse’s preseason top-25: No. 20 Penn (March 23), No. 12 James Madison (March 26), and No. 13 Princeton (April 13).

Big Ten play then starts off on March 19 against No. 16 Rutgers at home and ends on April 30 in a road trip to Ann Arbor versus Michigan.