Defense reigned supreme in Maryland women’s lacrosse’s season finale in Ann Arbor. As it has all year, the team’s chemistry on the backline shined through the glitz and glamour of the offense.
Late in the first quarter while leading 3-1, an unorthodox move by the Terps found graduate defender Abby Bosco on the attack. The move didn’t pay off, however, as a turnover caused by sophomore midfielder Josie Gooch turned the tables on Maryland.
Bosco fell down as Gooch forced the turnover, leading to a fast break opportunity with the Tewaaraton finalist trailing far behind the play. But that was no issue for the Terps.
The defense’s communication was on point and the defensive slides were executed to perfection. Michigan seemingly had an easy transition play in store, but Maryland’s backline shored up the numbers disadvantage.
Plays like this were common in Saturday afternoon’s matchup as Sterling’s 12 saves became a footnote. Sophomore midfielder Shannon Smith was able to finalize the defensive exhibition by forcing Michigan’s sixth turnover of the quarter — a sign of things to come as Maryland cruised to a 13-8 victory in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Michigan got frequent looks on offense thanks to four straight draw controls to start the contest, but the efficiency drop off was evident as Maryland snatched the early lead.
The first two goals were assisted, with junior midfielder Shaylan Ahearn linking up with sophomore attacker Eloise Clevenger on a tremendous lead pass to the middle. While graduate attacker Caitlin Muir evened it up shortly after, Clevenger’s patient approach allowed junior attacker Libby May to get on the board.
Not only were the Terps dissecting the Wolverines on offense, but the defense limited the shot making from the opposition. Michigan fired off just three shots in the first quarter, largely due to tremendous team defense and a plethora of miscues from the home team.
Although Maryland forced just two of Michigan’s six turnovers in the opening period, its cohesiveness on the backline created narrow passing lanes. The mistakes didn’t stop there either, as two yellow cards on dangerous follow throughs led to goals for Maryland.
One of the woman-up goals came from May earlier and the second via graduate attacker Aurora Cordingley to bookend the quarter. Cordingley’s 55th goal of the season became the third assisted goal of the game, while number 56 at the start of the second quarter came as the shot clock expired.
Maryland continued to roll as Michigan’s chances for a Big Ten Tournament berth slipped away. May stayed hot after scoring seven times versus Northwestern, this time cashing in on the free position. Then, Clevenger and May played hot potato before the sophomore made it five straight goals for the Terps.
Michigan’s eighth turnover nearly led to another goal from Cordingley, but graduate goalkeeper Arielle Weissman made the crucial save with her foot, igniting some much-needed momentum.
Senior attacker Claire Galvin looked to change the tides as she fired in a thunderous goal with 5:43 left on the clock. Unfortunately for the Wolverines, however, a media timeout interrupted any chance of a true momentum swing, allowing the Terps to regroup after a momentary lapse.
Junior goalkeeper Emily Sterling’s save segued into a goal the other way from sophomore attacker Victoria Hensh — a goal scorer in five of the last six games for Maryland.
Even though the Terps had controlled the flow of the entire first half, turnovers continued to rise. Their seventh of the half allowed senior midfielder Kaitlyn Mead to cut her team’s deficit to four at the half.
However, as the second half started, Maryland’s lead grew to six in a flash. Another shot clock buzzer beater started things off on the right foot, with Hensh finding Clevenger for their first connection of the season.
A mere 13 seconds later, the blazing speed of junior attacker Hannah Leubecker caught the Wolverines off guard, leading to goal number nine.
As well as Sterling fared throughout the third period, Michigan was able to sneak two goals past Maryland’s brick wall to make this one a little more interesting. Midfielders Annabelle Burke and Jill Smith injected some life into the Wolverine’s offense, but Clevenger curled off of Cordingley’s screen behind the cage to notch a career-high four goals.
The two sides traded goals thereafter, but Maryland got the last laugh thanks to another last second goal. Leubecker fired in a tough-angled goal with seven seconds to spare to give the Terps a 12-6 lead.
A quiet fourth quarter didn’t do Michigan any favors. While Mead brought the deficit to five goals, the captain Grace Griffin responded with a necessary goal at the 5:03 mark.
Maryland had this game on lock and it showed as its offense scored just one goal in the final 15 minutes of play. Despite the slow finish in this one, Maryland capped off a 15-1 season with a perfect conference record.
Three things to know
1. Maryland greatly benefitted from Michigan’s mistakes. Turnovers and fouls did the Wolverines in from the get go. The early indicator came from yellow cards as Maryland scored twice on woman-up opportunities. From there, Michigan mightily struggled to advance the ball, going 12-for-16 on clears and committing 14 turnovers.
2. Draw controls continued to be an area of concern. There’s not much to criticize when it comes to the 15-1 Terps, but their draw control numbers have been less than admirable this year. In today’s case, maybe it came down to the big lead they had built. Alas, it was another negative margin for the extremely well-rounded Terps. Maryland will have to keep its foot on the gas at all times with the postseason revving up next weekend.
3. Maryland is set to face Johns Hopkins in the Big Ten Tournament semis. With Michigan’s loss, Johns Hopkins slides into the four seed and line up to face the Terps in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on May 6. Maryland throttled Johns Hopkins by 11 goals in its only meeting on April 2. Cordingley scored two goals in her return to Baltimore, while May led the team with four of its 17 goals. This matchup also marked the beginning of Sterling’s second half surge, with her 12 saves marking a then-season-high before eclipsing that mark a game later.