With 5:22 remaining in the first half of the Big Ten championship game against No. 3-seed Rutgers, No. 1-seed Maryland women’s lacrosse graduate attacker Aurora Cordingley scored the team’s sixth goal of the afternoon on an aggressive cut down the middle of Rutgers’s stingy defense.
The Terps had been struggling to this point in the game to gain consistent momentum. Their offense was stalled by sophomore goalkeeper Sophia Cardello and the tenacious Scarlet Knight backline. But little did anyone know that Cordingley’s goal would be the start of a tsunami-like wave of goals by the tournament’s top seed.
Maryland pieced together 12 straight goals following Cordingley’s score, including 10 unanswered in the second half. It was an absolute clinic for the Terps right from the opening draw out of halftime, concluding in a dominant 18-8 victory to secure the Big Ten Tournament title in Piscataway, New Jersey on Sunday afternoon.
“In a big game like this it’s easy to let the circumstances get to us and stray us from our game plan,” junior attacker Libby May said. “So taking halftime to really hone in on what we need to focus on ... I think that’s really what turned it on for us.”
Like clockwork, graduate defender Abby Bosco corralled the opening draw control and junior attacker Hannah Leubecker fired in the first goal of the championship game. All in the matter of 30 seconds, the Terps firmly established its dominance.
It wouldn’t remain that way, however, even after May made it 2-0 via the free position. Cardello made two huge saves to prevent the top seed from taking a 3-0 lead, and her play in net immediately translated to offense.
Graduate attacker Taralyn Naslonski connected on a crucial goal for the Scarlet Knights following Cardello’s save. Although freshman midfielder Jordyn Lipkin responded on a well-executed up and under on the woman-up scenario, that goal wouldn’t dictate the flow.
Fueled by its effort defensively, Rutgers rattled off three straight to end the quarter. Naslonski and sophomore midfielder Ashley Moynahan tied it up fewer than two minutes after Lipkin’s goal before senior attacker Marin Hartshorn captured the lead.
Prior to Hartshorn’s goal, sophomore attacker Eloise Clevenger stood right in front of Cardello as she looked to fire in the team’s fourth goal. However, a stick check from behind by junior midfielder Ashley Campo set up the last-second goal from Hartshorn.
It was that defensive mindset that flipped the script on a first quarter that had all the makings of a dominating display by the Terps.
The stinginess on defense remained as the second quarter began. Even as the Terps distanced themselves in the draw numbers, the presence of Cardello initiated much of the Scarlet Knights’ offense.
“We didn’t set Emily up to make saves,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “I just thought we were a little hesitant. I think maybe the level of the game just got to us a little bit.”
Campo scored the fourth consecutive goal for Rutgers prior to Hartshorn’s second of the game. But following both of those goals, Maryland was able to respond, setting up a back and forth second quarter.
As the period continued on, the momentum remained up for grabs. Maryland couldn’t recapture the rhythm it possessed earlier in the game, allowing junior midfielder Cassidy Spilis to cash in on Rutgers’s seventh goal of the day — already more than the team had scored in its regular season meeting against the Terps.
Even with the pivotal goal by the Scarlet Knights, Cordingley maintained the back and forth affair with an aggressive dodge down the lane. After trailing by two or one all period, Clevenger found May on a great flash to the cage for the equalizer with 1:50 left.
Despite Maryland playing from behind for much of the first half, it entered the intermission in a 7-7 deadlock. Rutgers was playing with fire and the Terps woke up in the third period.
Four straight goals to start the second half pushed Maryland out in front, 11-7. May, Clevenger and Leubecker fired in the triage of goals off three straight draw controls garnered by Bosco. Sophomore midfielder Shannon Smith then padded the lead, marking the sixth straight goal by the Terps spanning back to the second period.
The bleeding wouldn’t stop there for the Scarlet Knights. Cordingley assisted on back-to-back goals — first to Clevenger then to May — to extend the lead to six. She then found the back of the net herself a minute later, marking the seventh goal of the period.
The third quarter was like a fever dream for the Scarlet Knights as the 7-7 tie turned into a 15-7 deficit at the conclusion of the quarter.
Two more goals in the fourth initiated a running clock — an unimaginable milestone just a quarter before. By the time Rutgers scored its first goal since 6:33 remained in the second quarter, five minutes and 20 seconds separated Maryland from hoisting the Big Ten Tournament trophy.
Cordingley put the finishes touches on the massive second half surge as the resilient Terps coasted through the field to capture a perfect conference record.
Three things to know
1. Maryland proved once again why they are a top team in the nation. It was a frustrating first half for the Terps as they failed to gain any traction against a stout Rutgers defense. But the resiliency from this team left the Scarlet Knights dead in the water. Trailing for much of the first half, Maryland pieced together 12 consecutive goals to coast to its first Big Ten championship since 2018.
“When you choose Maryland, besides choosing it for the culture you choose it to win championships,” Bosco said. “It’s just so exciting to share with the people around me.”
2. Draw controls put Maryland in control. Despite trailing for most of the first half, Maryland stood its ground on the draw. It was only a matter of time until the offense capitalized on those opportunities. That came to fruition in the third quarter as the trio of Bosco, Smith and junior midfielder Shaylan Ahearn dominated. Bosco led the way with nine draw controls, followed by Smith’s four and Ahearn’s seven.
“That whole unit I thought was tremendous today,” Reese said. “To have those numbers kind of flipped from our first game [against Rutgers] was crucial to our success.”
3. Aurora and Eloise shined on offense. Cordingley and Clevenger are relative newcomers to the Maryland program, but they have formed the team’s most efficient duo. Playing like they have been connected for years, the two stood out above the rest today with nine and six points, respectively. Cordingley supplied five assists today while Clevenger added four. They were catalysts on the offensive end, supplying a ton of looks during Maryland’s second-half rout.