Early on in No. 1-seed Maryland women’s lacrosse’s Big Ten semifinal matchup against No. 4-seed Johns Hopkins, graduate attacker Aurora Cordingley was on the verge of history.
After notching her 99th point on an assist to sophomore midfielder Shannon Smith, Cordingley entered the second quarter needing one more point to become the sixth ever Terp to reach the single-season century mark.
Squaring off against her former All-Big Ten teammate, graduate defender Jeanne Kachris, Cordingley wrapped around from behind the cage and spun against the grain to free up some space.
Kachris was a stride behind the Tewaaraton finalist, allowing the former Blue Jay to fire in her 57th goal and 100th point of the season. The goal was just the second of five straight goals by the Terps in the second quarter — a run that created significant separation.
Cordingley was a bit quiet in her first meeting against her former team a month ago, but she stormed to the forefront today with two goals and five assists, helping lead Maryland to victory in the rainy conditions, 14-6, to advance to the Big Ten Championship on Sunday.
“Knowing how Jeanne played me last time, I knew I could have been more of a threat [tonight],” Cordingley said. “I used that to find my teammates moving off-ball and make it harder for the defense to see both ball and girl at the same time.”
Just like the last meeting, Maryland found itself in an early hole. Upon gathering the opening draw control, the Blue Jays scampered down the field for the quick goal 30 seconds in.
Sophomore midfielder Abbey Hurlbrink put her team on the board with a solid one-on-one dodge, but the Terps responded well with a solo dodge of their own. Smith was the culprit, executing a left to right juke on her defender. She wouldn’t stop there as she scored a few minutes later off of the assist by Cordingley.
Each side’s defense settled down after Smith’s second goal. Maryland’s pressure on clears and in Johns Hopkins’s attacking third forced two errant passes on back-to-back possessions. Despite the Blue Jays’s struggles on offense, they held their own on defense.
A missed opportunity by the Terps segued into a rapid clear by the Blue Jays — one that produced an unexpected equalizer. Junior midfielder Madison McPherson ran three quarters of the field, speeding past multiple defenders to fire off the team’s second goal.
The Blue Jays made life difficult for Maryland in the opening quarter, but that all changed with a dominant second quarter.
Four goals across 2:12 of game time reestablished control for the Terps. A relentless goal from junior attacker Libby May kicked off the run, which was followed by a goal from Cordingley 28 seconds later.
Leubecker then padded the lead with two straight of her own — one on a downhill strike down the middle and a second on a peculiar reroute following the eight meter.
All the while, Maryland rattled off nine consecutive draw controls after ceding the draw to open the game. Johns Hopkins was able to put one past junior goalkeeper Emily Sterling at the tail end of the period to end its drought, but Maryland’s dominance was on full display as its 5-0 run helped catapult them to a 7-3 lead at the half.
“Our defense builds our offense and our offense builds our defense,” graduate midfielder Grace Griffin said. “I think that’s something you could see in that quarter and I think execution was key in that moment.”
Johns Hopkins used that late goal to boost its momentum swing in the second half. Like deja vu, the opening draw control fell into the hands of the Blue Jays before Hurlbrink scored.
However, it wouldn’t take too long for Maryland to answer back in an emphatic way. Second goals by Griffin and Cordingley put the top overall seed up by five goals. Leubecker then used a jaw-dropping first step to get to the cage with authority, extending Maryland’s lead to six goals.
Johns Hopkins continued to fail to generate quality looks at the net, making Sterling’s job that much easier in net. McPherson ended the nearly ten minute drought late in the period, but Sterling held her ground against a period-high four shots on goal for the Blue Jays.
The fourth quarter saw minimal movement on the scoreboard, with Griffin scoring the lone goal across the first nine minutes. May added the team’s 12th goal for good measure as the game meandered to a slow finish.
While the offense dominated the headlines, the defense put together another masterful performance. Sterling and company allowed single-digit goals for the eighth time in as many games, all wins.
Three things to know
1. Draw controls paved the way for a dominant showing by the Terps. It had been some time since Maryland had won the draw control by a lopsided margin, but it came at the perfect time in the Big Ten semifinals. Aided by a 9-0 run in the first half, Maryland coasted to a plus-10 draw control margin against the Big Ten’s weakest draw control team on a per game basis.
“Between Shannon, Abby and Shay I think they were all even as far as their draw controls go,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “They were just all over the place. We did a much better job tonight than we did our last game for sure.”
2. Turnovers and clears trended in opposite directions. High turnover numbers and poor clear percentages usually go hand in hand. But not today. Maryland committed 14 turnovers, yet were a perfect 13-for-13 in clearing the ball. A large part of the inverse relationship is the six turnovers committed in the first quarter alone. Maybe the conditions played a part, but the offense had some difficulty attacking the Blue Jays defense hard and keeping its eyes up — something of note heading into the Big Ten championship game.
“It was really difficult to catch the ball in tight with the weather being what it was,” Reese said. “We talked about it at halftime just trying to make smarter passes. We just needed to not make the big play, we just needed to make the simple play.”
3. Big Ten Championship showdown awaits. Will it be Meghan Ball and the Scarlet Knights, or the defending Big Ten champions Northwestern who will get a second crack at defeating the Terps on Sunday? Both teams fell to the top seed earlier in the regular season and will have an upset on the mind with a trophy on the line. Regardless of who the Terps match up with, they will be seeking its first conference championship since 2018.