With about four minutes left in the second quarter, No. 11 Maryland women’s lacrosse turned the ball over on offense against the Villanova Wildcats. However, the Terps never gave up on the play, immediately swarming the Villanova defense and causing a turnover of their own.
From there, Jordyn Lipkin scampered past the last line of defense for the Wildcats and unselfishly found Libby May wide open in front of the cage for a quick-release score. The Terps found success around the cage all day as they clobbered Villanova, 15-6.
The game began with the Terps winning the opening draw control, and their immediate strategy was to work the ball around quickly against the Wildcat zone defense.
About a minute in, Shaylan Ahearn opened the scoring on a heat seeker from just around eight meters out.
In the first few minutes, the Terps were aggressive on both offense and defense, causing a number of turnovers when the Wildcats attempted to clear. On offense, they peppered the cage with shots and constantly tried to thread the needle to front net cutters.
“We were seeing a lot of zone,” Maryland head coach Cathy Reese said. “As we continue to learn these concepts, we need to make sure we’re understanding it and who’s stepping up.”
Despite a goal from the Wildcats within the first five minutes, the Terps didn’t falter. Rather, they forced a number of Villanova fouls, which they turned into scores. Both goals came from the stick of Kori Edmondson, who factored into Maryland’s first three goals.
On her second goal, a free position, Edmondson switched hands and contorted her body before rifling a shot in the top corner. Her raw athletic ability and feel for the game was certainly on display in the first quarter.
Ahearn was a key contributor in the opening frame as well, winning four draw controls and notching two goals of her own. At the end of the first quarter, Maryland led 5-2.
To start the second quarter, the Terps earned themselves yet another free position shot. It followed a first quarter in which Maryland was fouled a staggering 11 times.
In the first five minutes, there were no scores for either program. Instead, it was a back-and-forth defensive battle. The Terps did have some trouble on clears, which was uncharacteristic of them. Coming into the game, they were the No. 1 clearing team in all of the NCAA.
“We had a couple where I think their pressure just got to us and we needed to tone it down a bit,” Reese said. “They were checking and swinging, and we need to protect our stick better.”
Ahearn opened up the scoring in the second quarter seven minutes in, when she capitalized on a free position. The goal gave her a hat trick, only the second of her career.
As the quarter dwindled, it was clear that the Wildcats were running out of gas on defense. Because of Ahearn’s excellence in the draw circle, Villanova’s defense was never really able to recover after grueling defensive possessions.
The Terps continued to move the ball around with pace, and it proved to be just too fast for the tired Wildcat zone. Libby May found the soft spot on a couple of occasions. Over a period of just a few minutes, Maryland potted three goals to extend their lead.
At the end of the second frame, the Terps led 9-3.
In the third quarter, the Terps were once again dominant. Although there weren’t too many scores to show for it, Maryland still was able to hold the ball for the majority of the shot clock and draw fouls on a consistent basis.
As the scoring margin continued to grow, the coaching staff began to play the younger players more often. They more than held their own, still winning their matchups on both offense and defense.
On offense, Lipkin scored her second with about two minutes remaining in the third quarter. It was her first multi-goal game since Maryland’s loss at Syracuse.
Villanova was ultimately held scoreless in the frame, a testament to the Terps’ relentless pressure. In fact, the wildcats were only able to get off one shot on goal in the quarter.
At the end of the third, the Terps were cruising along with a 12-3 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Maryland allowed two quick goals, both by star attacker Sydney Pappas. Both came off of simple cuts to the front of the net where she was able to beat Maryland’s man defense by just a step.
However, the Terps never took their foot off the gas. The Villanova native, Natalie Pansini, scored her second of the game about halfway through the frame. Shortly after, Kori Edmondson capitalized to obtain her third straight hat trick.
“As she keeps learning, she keeps getting better and better,” Reese said. “She’s tough and she’s not afraid of anything. She’s going to play hard.”
At this point, the game was all but over, and the Terps just needed to pass the ball around and complete a vintage wire-to-wire performance. With the 15-6 victory, the Terps improved to 5-3 on the season.
Next, the Terps will play Georgetown on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Three things to know
1. Ball control. The reason the Terps were able to absolutely dominate time of possession began with Ahearn’s success on draw controls.
The Terps also didn’t try to rush any possessions as they sometimes had in the past. Even when they took quick shots, they almost always kept the ball. This led to a huge shot discrepancy in the game, as the Terps had 39 and the Wildcats finished with just 16.
“We’re really attacking hard to open up everyone else,” Ahearn said. “All week in practice we’ve been emphasizing having a nose for the goal.”
2. Shaylan Ahearn’s big day. Ahearn set the tone for the Terps today from the get-go. She had just her second career hat trick, with all of the goals coming in the first half.
“I think the biggest thing is practice and repetition,” Ahearn said. “[My coaches] are always out there with me, helping me train.”
In addition, Ahearn had an assist to go along with 10 draw controls. She easily could have had more, but due to the Terps jumping out to and keeping their commanding lead, she was able to take some extended breaks.
3. Aggressiveness and speed. The Terps were arguably more aggressive and physical today than they have been all season. Every single time a Wildcat had the ball, it seemed as though there were two or three black shirts surrounding her. The Terps finished with nine caused turnovers.
“Discipline is one of the big pillars of our defense,” defender Abby Bosco said. “I think we’re just trying to stick to our game plan as best as possible and play together as a unit.”
Despite the Terps initially having a tough time against the Villanova zone defense, they eventually had no problem putting their heads down and attacking the cage. They drew a number of fouls, and went 5-for-12 on free position opportunities.