Midway through the second quarter, No. 5 Maryland women’s lacrosse committed a sloppy turnover on offense, which directly led to a fast-break goal for No. 12 James Madison’s Isabella Peterson. In some ways, the sequence served as a microcosm of the whole game, as Maryland played sluggishly and couldn’t keep up with the Dukes at times.
The Terps’ overall disappointing performance resulted in a low-scoring 8-7 loss to James Madison. Maryland fell to 3-2 on the season.
“Tough night for us here,” coach Cathy Reese said. “James Madison came out and fought hard. I think we did a lot of nice things defensively and we’re making progress.”
Maryland began the game by winning the opening draw control. The Terps worked the ball around with pace until junior attacker Eloise Clevenger finally rattled a shot off the post.
The Dukes picked up the loose ball, and on their first possession of the game, drew a shooting space foul. Their shot was met by a save from All-American senior goalie Emily Sterling.
The first score came courtesy of James Madison attacker Katelyn Morgan, who snaked her way from behind the net and capitalized with a beautiful behind-the-back shot.
With a 1-0 lead, the Dukes won the subsequent draw control and perfectly executed a give-and-go in front of the cage for another score.
However, Maryland flew around the field on its next defensive possession, forcing errant passes and eventually a near-shot clock violation. Graduate defender Marge Donovan was especially active, riding attackers away from the crease and not allowing any clean shots off.
“Im really, really proud of the way our defense played,” All-American defender Abby Bosco said. “We improved from our last game defensively and now we just have to keep going with that.”
The issue for the Terps in the first quarter was their inability to get many solid looks. There were a number of sloppy turnovers, lack of aggressiveness and simply missing the shots that they were given. James Madison rarely allowed the Terps’ offense to enter the eight-meter arc, and if they did, were immediately double teamed.
To open the second quarter, the James Madison defense was absolutely stifling, chasing down the Terps’ attackers and constantly waving sticks in their faces. In fact, the defense was so suffocating that it forced a shot-clock violation.
The Terps rebounded quickly, though, forcing a James Madison turnover on a clear attempt and earning a free position. Clevenger cashed in on the opportunity.
The acme of the first half for the Terps was their stellar woman-down defense. In fact, they were able to kill off much of the time on offense.
The scoring drought of the second quarter was ended by James Madison with 6:15 remaining to make it a 3-1 game. Following the score, the teams traded shot clock violations, which was a direct result of a lack of creativity and movement on offense and superb communication of defense.
Through two frames, James Madison led 4-2.
To start the third quarter, the Terps had a number of opportunities on a single possession, all of which they failed to cash in on. There was an emphasis on ball and player movement, but to no avail.
“Our offense is better than that,” Reese said. “We’re down in a hole, I think we’re two-for-twelve at that point. We were 50% in 8 meter (shots). That’s important.”
In stark contrast, James Madison opened its third-quarter offense by locating midfielder Brianna Mennella on a wide-open feed in front of the goal mouth. Needing a goal down three, Maryland couldn’t seem to find a spark in any of its offensive weapons. Once again, it had to force an errant shot attempt due to the shot clock running low.
After a few back-and-forth offensive possessions, Clevenger struck for the Terps, weaving out from her patented spot behind the net and fitting one in past James Madison goalie Kat Buchanan.
Just minutes later, with this newfound momentum, freshman midfielder Kori Edmondson scored on a nifty quick-release shot off a free position opportunity. However, James Madison took advantage of Maryland’s man-to-man defense by slipping one by Sterling to extend its lead once more.
To start the final frame, James Madison extended their lead within the first few minutes, when yet another cutter found themselves taking an uncontested shot for a score.
“I think that we’re just going to continue to work hard on defense,” Bosco said. “We’re going to go into film and we’re going to learn from it and we’re going to make those adjustments.”
However, a gear must have switched in the Terps’ mentality, as they scored three straight goals in a matter of minutes. The Dukes began fouling considerably more than they had in the past quarters and the Terps made them pay on multiple occasions. Hannah Leubecker and Libby May were among those who contributed to the scoring effort.
In the end, the late push wasn’t enough, and the Terps fell to the Dukes by a score of 8-7.
They will look to bounce back this weekend when they return home to play No. 9 Denver.
Three things to know
1. Defense, defense, defense. It was not a surprise to see Maryland’s top-ranked defense play the way it did. Holding opponents to under 10 goals is a bar it should set no matter the ranking of the team it plays. They only fouled the Dukes 23 times and were a perfect 16-for-16 on clears.
James Madison’s defense was stifling for a large majority of the game. Its communication was immaculate and Buchanan controlled the cage exceptionally well. Additionally, the defense switched with ease when playing in man-to-man coverage and even deployed a zone setup at times.
“We caused a few turnovers,” Reese said. “Whether it was shot clock possessions, or (forcing) turnovers it over inside the 8 meter or 12 meter. We’re just making progress.”
2. Sloppy play. The Maryland offense simply did not pass the eye test all game. In the past, it has always been a question as to who would step up for the Terps when they desperately need a score. Wednesday, the Terps had an extremely tough time creating their own scoring, instead relying on free position shots to do their damage; they ended up going 5-for-12 on said opportunities.
The Terps outshot the Dukes 29-16, but it didn’t matter. Maryland’s poor shooting percentage, combined with multiple shot clock violations and numerous errant passes, resulted in the loss.
“We just have to get back to the drawing board on offense,” Reese said. “We have to make some changes. We have to adjust when we’re playing a zone defense.”
3. Maryland’s late push. In similar fashion as it did against Florida where it pulled out a victory, something clicked for Maryland when it went down 8-4 early in the fourth quarter. The offense began playing much more aggressively and with much more pace than they had in the first three quarters. On defense, the Terps face-guarded a great deal more and gave Isabella Peterson little room to roam around.
The effort simply fell short. As mentioned before, if Maryland can play to its full potential for 60 minutes, it can win the national championship. Wednesday was not one of those days, as its slow start proved to be too much to overcome.
“I felt like we finally started playing hard in the fourth quarter,” Reese said. “I felt like we were dragging our feet a bit throughout, playing a little bit timid.”