By Ryan Alonardo
Following a Final Four run last year where it was ultimately defeated by Boston College, No. 2 Maryland women’s lacrosse gears up for another run at the national title.
Meanwhile, the Saint Joseph’s Hawks enjoyed one of their best seasons in program history last year, capping it off with a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Picked to finish third in their conference, the Hawks will aim to compete for yet another tournament berth.
Now heading into the season opener with the top recruiting class in the nation, as well as a handful of new transfers and a plethora of returning starters, it should be an exciting first look this weekend for the Terps.
The game will take place on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 1 p.m. in SECU Stadium in College Park. The match will stream on Big Ten Plus.
Saint Joseph’s Hawks
2022 season: Saint Joseph’s finished 7-2 in its conference and 14-7 overall. The Hawks put on a show when the lights were the brightest, securing the Atlantic 10 Championship over UMass. As a result, they qualified for the NCAA Tournament but fell to Rutgers, 17-10, in the first round.
Head coach Alex Kahoe enters her ninth season coaching the Hawks. Interestingly enough, Kahoe, along with her two assistant coaches, all have a common alma mater in Maryland. Kahoe was a member of teams that won five national championships. At Saint Joseph’s, Kahoe’s squad has improved almost every season, as her first season produced just a 5-11 record. She has coached 33 All-Atlantic 10 selections as well as the 2019, 2021 and 2022 offensive players of the year.
Players to know
Riley Evans, senior midfielder, No. 21 — A Second Team All-Atlantic 10 selection last year, Evans was the Hawks’ second leading scorer with 35 goals. In addition, she caused 38 turnovers, which was good for second-most in a season in Hawks history. In the Atlantic 10 title game against UMass, she scored a hat trick to propel the team to the NCAA Tournament. She was named to the Preseason All-Conference Team prior to the season.
Jorden Concordia, junior goalkeeper, No. 3 — Originally on the Syracuse team that made it to the national championship in 2021, Concordia transferred to Saint Joseph’s. She started all 21 games last season and boasted a .448 save percentage and 11.79 goals-against average in a strong conference. In the season opener against Maryland last year, Concordia had 14 saves, which was her third-most in a game for the season.
Lisa Ross, senior attacker No. 10 — It’s safe to say Ross had a breakout campaign last year after only seeing action in three games in the previous two seasons. What was especially noteworthy was her team-leading 25 assists as an attacker, and she ended up placing eighth in the conference in assists per game. Additionally, Ross netted 24 goals, rounding out her game nicely. She had four hat tricks in 2022.
Building on success. Coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance, Saint Joseph’s will be chomping at the bit to return. Last season, it placed high in a number of categories in the Atlantic 10, including the top four in goals, points, assists and shots on goal per game. Additionally, it was exceptional at draw controls, racking up 308 over 21 games. After finishing on top in 2022, the Hawks were predicted to finish in third place in this year’s Atlantic 10 preseason poll. Don’t be surprised to see an energetic and spirited start on Saturday.
Losing Lauren Figura. Last season, Figura was not only far and away the best player on Saint Joseph’s roster, but in the entire Atlantic 10. Unfortunately for the Hawks, Figura transferred to North Carolina in hopes of a better chance to contend for a national title. In 2022, Figura scored a whopping 72 goals, which was 22 more than the next player in the conference. She also led the conference in total points (87) and shots (141). Most importantly, she always seemed to deliver in the big moments, scoring 13 goals and two assists in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Hawks will try their best to atone for the loss of their former star, and the tenacity and leadership which she brought.
Three things to watch
1. Who will carry the scoring load? Aurora Cordingley, the Terps’ leader in both goals (67) and points (118), graduated after the conclusion of last season. The good news? Maryland has an abundance of riches at its disposal as a top program in the country. Keep an eye out for two stellar senior attackers on Saturday: Libby May and Hannah Leubecker, who potted 64 and 62 goals respectively in 2022. Needing to fill the void Cordingley left, don’t be surprised if they both go over 70 goals this season.
2. Just how scary will this defense be? Not only do the Terps have a seriously high-powered offense, they also have a great case for the best defense in the entire nation. Last year, opponents only scored 164 total goals against Maryland — and the Terps just might improve in that department. Despite losing graduate student Torie Barretta, the Terps have maintained their foundation and added talent. Abby Bosco and Emily Sterling may very well be the best defender-goaltender tandem in the nation, and will look to build upon last season’s success. On top of this, the Terps will introduce a few new faces on defense this weekend, including All-American transfer Marge Donovan and redshirts Clancy Rheude and Kennedy Major. Major was the No. 1 ranked defender in the 2021 recruiting class, per Inside Lacrosse.
3. What should we expect from the freshman class? The Terps are entering the season with the best freshman class in the country. Headlining the group is the consensus No. 1 overall recruit: midfielder Kori Edmondson. The speedy midfielder brings a versatile game to the Terps, with 194 goals and 176 draw controls in her high school career. In addition, top-10 recruits Maggie Weisman and Jaylen Rosga will look to have an immediate impact on the Terps’ growing offensive game.