For the second time this week, Maryland women’s lacrosse faced some adversity in its path to victory.
On Wednesday, the Terps fought themselves out of an early 3-0 hole against Princeton to win a tough road contest. Fast forward to Sunday afternoon and the visiting Terps were deadlocked at eight goals with Big Ten foe Ohio State at halftime.
But just as they did against Princeton, the Terps used a monstrous second half to create the separation needed. Highlighted by another masterful performance from the defense, Maryland shut out the Buckeyes over the final 30 minutes to coast to a 14-8 victory.
“Taking the second half to not beat the other team, but to kind of beat ourselves,” junior midfielder Shaylan Ahearn said. “It was definitely the tale of two halves today and I think that we really picked it up in the second half.”
The win brought Maryland’s win total to 13 on the season, increasing its win streak to five games and continuing its perfect record in both conference play and road games.
“They know what they’re capable of so when we can really dig down deep and just had a chance at halftime to reset, come out and actually step on the field and execute, we were able to pull away in the second half,” head coach Cathy Reese said.
Maryland got off to a fast start in this one, with junior attacker Libby May scoring off an assist from graduate midfielder Grace Griffin before sophomore attacker Eloise Clevenger doubled the lead 34 seconds later.
That quick offensive display wouldn’t last, however, as Ohio State rattled off four consecutive scores through the middle portion of the period.
Graduate midfielder Lindsay Epstein was the first to strike via the free position. A failed clear attempt then gave the Buckeyes the green light to tie things up, with junior attacker Nicole Ferrara punching in the equalizer just before five minutes had gone by.
Self-inflicted errors hurt Maryland, though. Thanks to a yellow card from sophomore midfielder Shannon Smith, the Buckeyes immediately capitalized on the woman-up scenario as graduate attacker Sophie Baez gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the day.
Graduate midfielder Ali Beekhuizen then punctuated a tremendous stretch for the home team by scoring their fourth straight goal. Despite the lull period from the Terps, an aggressive offensive approach followed.
Graduate attacker Aurora Cordingley delivered the opening strike before assisting junior attacker Hannah Leubecker on the team’s next possession. Junior defender Aiden Peduzzi initiated the offense by causing the second turnover of the game for the Terps.
May then finalized an impressive finish with her effort in transition. Junior goalkeeper Emily Sterling made the save and away the Terps went, with May finishing the fast break by splitting two defenders and getting to the cage with authority.
Nine total goals put the score at 5-4 in Maryland’s favor after just 15 minutes of action. The second period of play brought even more offense as the two combined for eight more goals.
After falling behind 7-5 thanks to goals from Leubecker and Ahearn, Ohio State produced three goals in 1:24 to retake the lead. Two of the scores came via the free position, but Cordingley responded with her own score from the eight-meter mark with 32 seconds to spare.
The Buckeyes held the slim advantage in the period to put the game back at square one. But little did they know a defensive wave was forthcoming.
Senior defender Maddie Sanchez and Peduzzi led the charge, with each forcing two turnovers. The two defenders along with the rest of Maryland’s backline limited the Buckeyes to a handful of poor shots, making Sterling’s job that much easier.
“We thrive on playing together, it’s not just one person,” Griffin said. “We knew what we had to do and trust each other in our abilities.”
All the looks at the cage were denied by Sterling, who finished the outing with a 50% save percentage.
Sophomore goalkeeper Regan Alexander made three more saves in the second half than Sterling did. But it was USA Lacrosse Magazine’s midseason national goalie of the year that controlled the flow of the game thanks to the team’s cohesiveness on the defensive end.
“[Ohio State] put us in positions that made it hard for us to defend and we didn’t help Emily out a whole lot,” Reese said of the team’s first half defense. “Out of halftime our D locked down. We were sliding when we needed to and we weren’t creating offense for them [in the second half].”
Ohio State’s defense did a good job of shutting out the Terps for most of the quarter, but the complementary end-to-end play of the visitors proved to be too much to contain.
Ahearn and Cordingley scored free positions goals with 1:37 and 0:51 left, respectively. That glimpse of offense set off the strong finish.
Maryland secured every draw control in the fourth quarter to jump out to a six-goal victory by the final buzzer. It was Cordingley and Leubecker who got things rolling in the fourth before Griffin added two more for insurance
Both sides of the ball have been clicking as the postseason approaches. Maryland will need to keep up the good chemistry to finish off its final two opponents — Northwestern and Michigan — with the former presenting a tantalizing challenge for the Terps.
“I love our maturity right now,” Reese said. “Not a whole lot needs to be said to get your team excited to play a team as strong and talented as Northwestern.”