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No. 4 Maryland women’s lacrosse takes down Villanova, 19-7

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Maryland secured the victory inside the Jones-Hill House.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

The turnover margin for No. 4 Maryland women’s lacrosse helped create major separation in its Sunday afternoon matchup against Villanova.

In the second quarter, a forced turnover by junior attacker Libby May, the team’s seventh, led to a breakaway chance for the Terps. May, however, delivered an errant lead pass to graduate attacker Aurora Cordingley, which gravitated three defenders toward the loose ball, likely leading to a missed opportunity.

Instead, sophomore attacker Eloise Clevenger continued her own pursuit of the ball. As the defenders chased after it, the sophomore got to the ball first. All the while, Cordingley continued to stay in stride with Clevenger, leaving the graduate transfer with plenty of real estate in front of her.

Clevenger had the presence of mind to complete a shovel pass to Cordingley rather than pick it up and wind back for the extra pass. The seamless transition play led to Maryland’s ninth goal of the game, ultimately helping to seal its sixth win of the season, 19-7.

Cordingley’s goal marked one of 11 points that she tallied Sunday afternoon. The graduate transfer’s performance was the first time a Terp had that many points since attacker Alex Aust did so in 2013.

It was a change of scenery for the Terps as inclement weather prompted a move to Jones-Hill House. Before the men’s lacrosse game Saturday, no game had been played in the former basketball arena since 2002.

“This is like one of those stereotypical control what you can control moments in sports,” graduate midfielder Grace Griffin said. “We had to trust each other, trust the coaches, the grounds crew, everyone here and then step out on the field and just do what we always do.”

Maryland fit right into its new environment for the day, starting off on a flawless foot.

Upon ceding the opening draw to senior defender Sydney Frank, Maryland’s defense was impenetrable. After deterring multiple moves by the Wildcats, a last-ditch shot from senior attacker Olivia Piccirilli was saved by goalkeeper Emily Sterling.

Defense turned into immediate offense, as Griffin put the Terps on the board. Clevenger, who registered her 11th assist of the season on Griffin’s goal, scored a goal of her own 56 seconds later off of the patient setup by Cordingley.

It was a perfect opening three minutes of play, but Villanova managed to flip the script.

Goals from senior midfielder Caroline Curnal and freshman attacker Sydney Pappas exposed Maryland’s defensive gaps. The 2-0 run by the visitors came in quick succession too, scoring both goals on open lanes within 48 seconds of each other.

Still, despite the lapse in momentum, impressive individual defense from graduate defender Abby Bosco and freshman midfielder Jordyn Lipkin kept a Villanova lead at bay. The defensive stand lasted long enough to put Maryland back in front by two, with the scores coming from Griffin and Clevenger, about five minutes apart.

Another takeaway by Bosco, her third of the game, set up Cordingley’s 22nd goal of the season. This gave Maryland a 5-2 lead after 15 minutes of play.

The fifth caused turnover of the game led to a quick goal from the Terps. Attacker Hannah Leubecker scooped up the ground ball after knocking the ball out of midfielder Megan Reilly’s stick and hit Cordingley in stride for the breakaway score.

Leubecker then responded with a few scores of her own. A scorching free position goal increased Maryland’s run to five. The junior then took on three defenders with a crafty dodge, forcing in her 17th goal of the season.

While the Terps entered halftime with a comfortable 10-3 lead, Villanova chipped away by continuing its dominance on the draw circle.

Leading 11-4 in that department, the Wildcats were able to attack early and often in the third quarter. Although typically dominant out of halftime, the Terps were not at its finest. What kept them in a comfortable position was a triage of overturned goals.

After pulling ahead 2-1 in the quarter, sophomore midfielder Jenna Pastore scored Villanova’s sixth goal of the afternoon to cut the deficit to five. But the goal was waved off due to a crease violation.

A failed clear attempt by Maryland gave the Wildcats another chance at continuing its solid third quarter. However, upon attacker Piccirilli firing in the second rendition of Villanova’s sixth goal, it too was waved off after Piccirilli’s follow through struck graduate defender Torie Barretta, enforcing a yellow card and another break for Maryland.

May scored on the ensuing possession to finally make Villanova pay for its mistakes, but the Wildcats were quickly back on the attack.

Now trailing 12-5, the Wildcats finally seemed to have broken its drought after Piccirilli fired in a shot — but yet again it was deterred. Senior defender Maddie Sanchez set a charge right in front of the crease, overturning a third Villanova goal on a third straight possession.

Freshman attacker Sami Carey finally got one to go through with 1:32 remaining in the third, setting up the Wildcats with some momentum down the stretch after plenty of misfortune.

Although May bookended the quarter with a goal, Villanova was able to get things going quickly once again, cutting the deficit to just six goals.

But it only delayed the inevitable as Cordingley took over.

As a part of a 6-0 run to end the game, the graduate transfer scored and assisted twice over the final 7:37 of the game. Sophomore midfielder Shannon Smith punched in the final goal as the clock expired, pushing the Terps to a perfect 6-0 start.

“There are just some pieces of the puzzle that we’ll keep working on to try to change our team — raise it up a level, go from good to great,” Reese said. “It’s kind of baby steps, but it was a good day today.”

Three things to know

1. Villanova dominated the draw circle. The bigger and lengthier Curnal created a ton of problems for Maryland on the draw circle, leading to the visitor’s advantage. Maryland did tidy things up down the stretch, winning three straight and four straight at certain points, but still gave up a lot of early possessions thanks to its minus-five margin. This is in large part due to midfielder Shaylan Ahearn’s early exit.

“I know we rely a lot on Shay and we haven’t really been faced with having to go to another person in that area,” Reese said. “That was a good area of growth for us today.”

2. Another Aurora Cordingley hat trick. Cordingley has made national headlines as one of the most prolific collegiate lacrosse players in the country. Once again on Sunday, she scored a hat trick, her sixth as a member of the Terrapins across six games. To put things in perspective, she had six such performances during her 17-game senior season with Johns Hopkins.

3. Abby Bosco shined. From one transfer to the next, Bosco was one of the main catalysts of Maryland’s sixth win of the season. Constantly deterring the Villanova offense with excellent one-on-one defense, the former Penn defender forced three turnovers and chipped in four ground balls.

“It’s huge on defense for her to be able to take those chances and come up with those caused turnovers,” Griffin said. “She just pushes it and that’s contagious.”