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No. 1-seed Maryland women’s lacrosse Big Ten tournament semifinal preview: No. 4-seed Johns Hopkins

Maryland coasted to a 17-6 victory earlier in the season against the Blue Jays.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

The stage is set for No. 1-seed Maryland women’s lacrosse to continue its reign of dominance.

After amassing a perfect 6-0 record in conference, the Terps earned the top overall seed in the Big Ten Tournament. They match up with No. 4-seed Johns Hopkins in the semifinals — one of the seven teams Maryland has beaten on its current win streak.

Following its loss to then-No. 15 James Madison on March 26, Maryland has been barreling through its competition. Junior goalkeeper Emily Sterling has been the catalyst as she has upped her game substantially to finish the regular season at the top in save percentage.

Her and the No. 2 defense in the nation begin their quest for a Big Ten championship Friday night at 5:30 p.m. in Piscataway, New Jersey. The game will be broadcast on Big Ten Network.

What happened last time

The only real blemish on Maryland’s performance against Johns Hopkins on April 2 was that the Blue Jays were the first to strike.

The then-No. 20 team in the country, Johns Hopkins was seeking its first conference win after starting the slate winless through two games. But the goal from junior midfielder Madison McPherson gave the Blue Jays their only lead.

Maryland rattled off five straight goals to take a commanding 5-1 lead. After some back and forth play throughout the second quarter, the Terps kicked it into high gear. Maryland scored the game’s final eight goals and outscored the home team 9-1 in the second half.

Graduate attacker Aurora Cordingley was face guarded all game against her former squad, but the rest of the offense picked up the pieces. Junior attacker Libby May led the charge with four goals, while nine other players found the back of the net for the 17-6 victory.

Sterling and the defense then held the Blue Jays in check down the other end. The standout junior put up a then-career-high 12 saves (she would go on to break that mark the next game.)

What has happened since

It has been smooth sailing for the Terps. A modest two-game win streak turned into seven following the victory over Johns Hopkins.

Road victories against ranked opponents Princeton and Michigan were marquee victories, but no win was more important and indicative of Maryland’s dominance this season than the win over then-No. 2 Northwestern.

A 15-9 home victory over the defending Big Ten champions rewarded the Terps the top overall seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

Johns Hopkins on the other hand had to scratch and claw its way to the fourth seed in the conference tourney.

An overtime road win against Towson immediately followed, but a three-game Big Ten stretch to end the season would put the Blue Jays into survival mode.

A loss to Northwestern on April 16 had them on the outside looking in of the conference tournament. However, a gritty 17-14 win over Ohio State and a five-goal win in Happy Valley, plus a skid by Michigan, granted the Blue Jays a spot in Piscataway.

Three things to watch

1. Maryland’s draw control tallies. The Terps have lacked consistency on the draw this season and with postseason play unleashing a new animal inside of every team, Maryland will have to be more aggressive in the circle. Luckily for them, Johns Hopkins ranks last in the conference with 11.78 draw controls per game. However, the Terps will still have to find some consistency if they want to get into a groove.

2. The late-season play of Eloise Clevenger. The sophomore attacker didn’t have a sizable role in 2021, but she emerged in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with her only three points of the season. In the regular season finale versus Michigan, Clevenger once again stepped up late in the season, putting up a career-high six points on four goals and two assists. Now with a more integral role on the offense, this may just be a prelude to what’s to come in May.

3. How will Aurora Cordingley fare in her second meeting against Hopkins? Maryland’s leading scorer was able to find the back of the net twice in her first meeting against her former team, but her involvement in the offense was limited. Her presence in and of itself helped the offense find more open looks, but expect Cordingley to be more hands on this time around. She didn’t log any assists in the April meeting, and one can assume that aspect of her game won’t remain dormant again.