Maryland women’s lacrosse entered its second-round NCAA Tournament matchup seeking revenge against Duke — the team that knocked the Terps out of the tourney last season.
What transpired was more than just revenge; it was a clinic.
Maryland has proved time and time again that it is for real in 2022, but its 19-6 landslide victory over the Blue Devils was the cherry on top.
There’s still room for growth too, with a bid in the Final Four on the line between Maryland and No. 7-seed Florida. The two met earlier in the season, with the Terps gathering the 18-8 win in late February.
The rematch has hefty stakes, and Maryland will have the luxury of playing in front of its home crowd.
Thursday, May 19, noon, Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, College Park, Maryland
What happened last time
On Feb. 26 — nearly two years after having its 86-game home win streak snapped by the Gators — the Terps got their revenge with an 18-8 win to open the season at 3-0.
Graduate attacker Aurora Cordingley was utterly dominant in the win, notching 10 points on four goals and six assists. Joined by junior attacker Hannah Leubecker’s four goals and sophomore midfielder Shannon Smith’s first career hat trick, Maryland coasted to the finish line.
It was a thunderous start as Maryland jumped out to a 7-1 lead after the first period. Florida closed the gap thanks to five goals in the second, but Maryland did well to keep the Gators at bay.
Maryland’s 9-2 second-half advantage in goals scored set it apart. Eight straight goals were scored before junior midfielder Emily Heller put one past junior goalkeeper Emily Sterling.
A main reason for the lopsided result was Maryland’s prowess on the draw. Its 24-6 advantage was spearheaded by a career-high 14 draws for junior midfielder Shaylan Ahearn.
What’s happened since
Both teams have not lost much since their first meeting.
Maryland had one hiccup to James Madison exactly one month later, but it otherwise ran rampant through its schedule.
A Big Ten Championship title preceded an NCAA tournament win over Duke, setting up the Terps’ matchup with the Gators on the heels of their 10th straight win.
Florida, on the other hand, is in the midst of a 15-game win streak. Its loss to Maryland was sandwiched between losses to fellow top-eight teams North Carolina and Stony Brook. The team continued to struggle after its win over Liberty on March 9, losing to Loyola Maryland to pile up four losses over five games.
Since that loss, however, the Gators have found their stride. They won the American Athletic Conference championship with an 18-7 victory against Vanderbilt before slotting in as the No. 7-seed in the NCAA Tournament.
From there, Florida has won both of its tournament games against teams they had previously faced this season — Mercer and Jacksonville. It now gets a third crack at a prior opponent: not a Bear, not a Dolphin, but a Terrapin.
Three things to watch
1. Can Ahearn perform to the level she did on Sunday? The junior midfielder’s performance on the draw circle against senior attacker Maddie Jenner was something to marvel at. Along with the work of her teammates around the circle, Ahearn neutralized the nation’s draw leader. Carrying that momentum will be crucial in the quarterfinals, and the odds are in Maryland’s favor after Ahearn collected 14 in the last meeting.
2. Full throttle on offense. Maryland kept up the pace against Duke, initiating a running clock right at halftime and continuing that into the second half. It was the first time the Terps have overwhelmed its opponent to that extent all season, and it paid its dividends. Playing with its foot on the gas all game helped Maryland coast to victory. They got the Blue Devils out of rhythm and will look toward using that level of ferociousness again with a trip to Baltimore at stake.
3. A shot at the Final Four. It’s unprecedented territory for all but two members of the current roster. All but graduate midfielder Grace Griffin and graduate defender Torie Barretta have been to this stage of the tournament, but it would be ill-advised to underestimate the readiness and maturity of this group. From the veterans, to the coaches, all the way through to the players on the bench, this team is playing with incredible confidence right now.