A bounce-back win was important for Maryland women’s lacrosse, and a bounce-back win was exactly what it earned, defeating Drexel 15-9 on Tuesday.
For starters, the Dragons didn’t even have an offensive possession until eight minutes through the first frame. In addition, Shaylan Ahearn won a career-high 14 draw controls. The Terps’ offensive starpower flashed, with Libby May and Hannah Leubecker combining for 10 goals. Despite some lapses in the second and fourth quarters, the Terps returned to the championship level of play that they’re capable of.
Now, in a showdown versus No. 7 Florida, Maryland will have a chance to prove that it can dismantle one of the elite teams in the nation.
So far, the Gators have faced some challenging foes. First, they squared off against No. 17 Michigan, winning 17-8. Next, they traveled to No. 1 North Carolina, where they were dismantled, 12-5.
Saturday’s game will begin at 12 p.m. and stream on ESPN+.
Florida Gators (1-1, 0-0 AAC)
2022 record: 17-5, 5-0 AAC
Amanda O’Leary is now in her 14th season as head coach of the Gators. She took over at the team’s inception in 2010 and hasn’t faltered since. Her career record of 365-118 speaks for itself, and she has taken Florida to 11 NCAA Tournaments. O’Leary has coached 27 players who have earned 87 All-American honors. She has also produced four Tewaaraton Award finalists and two Honda Sports Award nominees.
Players to watch
Emma LoPinto, sophomore attacker, No. 14 — LoPinto is clearly one of the nation’s rising superstars. Last season, LoPinto scored 63 goals and dished out 34 assists. Her 97 total points were the most ever by a Florida freshman. With this success, she was named an IWLCA Third Team All-American and AAC Freshman of the Year. She remains one of the focal points on the offensive side of the ball, with seven goals and three assists in just two games so far.
Danielle Pavinelli, junior attacker, No. 10 — Pavinelli had a clear breakout season in 2022, scoring 73 goals and recording 23 assists. As a result, she was recognized with a number of awards, including but not limited to Tewaaraton top-25 Nominee, All-AAC First Team and IWLCA Second Team All-American. In two games this season, Pavinelli has posted three goals, four assists and has two draw controls.
Sarah Reznick, redshirt junior goalkeeper, No. 18 — Reznick may just be the best goalkeeper in the AAC, slotting in at number one in save percentage (.565) and saves per game (13). Last season, Reznick racked up a number of awards; she was three-time AAC Defender of the Week and was named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List. In addition, she was named to the All-AAC First Team and the AAC Goalkeeper of the Year.
Attack. Pavinelli and LoPinto clearly lead this squad, and if the Gators want to have any chance of beating the Terps this Saturday, they will need to ride their skills to a victory. In Florida’s win over No. 17 Michigan, LoPinto scored four goals and three assists while Pavinelli had two goals and two assists of her own.
Defense and turnovers. Yes, Florida has played two very skilled teams to begin the season. However, the statistics don’t lie. Despite Sarah Reznick’s impressive start, Florida’s defensive unit has not always played very well around her. It ranks second to last in its conference in caused turnovers and ground balls per game, and second in turnovers of their own per game.
Three things to watch
1. The Terps’ ball movement and shooting. There are a few aspects to consider here. First off, Maryland is sixth in the Big Ten in assists per game. So, there are questions as to whether the Terps will use the swift ball movement that brought them so much success against St. Joseph’s, or if they will resort to the more isolated style of attack that was stymied against Syracuse. Deploying Eloise Clevenger at X and allowing her to distribute the ball to cutters for quick release shots appears to be their best recipe for scores.
Secondly, Maryland’s shooting percentage against Syracuse was dismal, and even against Drexel, its offense fired some errant balls. This is partly due to Maryland settling for contested shots after having run down the shot clock. A key on Saturday will be to make sure that while being patient on offense, Maryland dictates the pace and is assertive.
2. Maryland’s defense. Maryland’s defensive unit not only played a subpar game against Syracuse, but it also had moments where Drexel was able to expose it. It’s understandable that this might occur, as the Terps’ unit is a mix of youngsters, veterans and transfers. They are most likely still working on their communication and camaraderie each and every day. Once they put it all together, however, this defense can absolutely be the best in the nation. They’re physical and aren’t afraid of going after ground balls, stifling in man-coverage and clearing the ball.
3. Overall play against a skilled opponent. The reason that this remains something to watch is simply because Maryland has yet to beat a truly formidable opponent. When the Terps faced Syracuse, the pace of play picked up exponentially. As a result, their decisions felt rushed and often panicked. This Saturday, it will be important to see just how Maryland responds to early blows from Florida and whether or not the offense can respond.