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No. 11 Maryland women’s lacrosse opens Big Ten play with 16-8 win at No. 22 Rutgers

Four different Terps had hat tricks.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

It didn’t matter how; Maryland women’s lacrosse senior attacker Hannah Leubecker scored in every which way.

Whether it was a free position, a cut to the front of the net, a rocket from the 12-meter or eight-meter or even a goal in close confines, Leubecker was a goal-scoring machine. Doing all of her work in the first two quarters, she set the tone with five goals and propelled No. 11 Maryland to its first Big Ten win of the season against No. 22 Rutgers, 16-8.

Maryland will play next on Wednesday at 5 p.m. against Penn.

Maryland commenced the game by winning the opening draw control. After about 45 seconds of working the ball around the perimeter, Leubecker stepped into a rocket of a shot from just inside the 12-meter fan. In her first appearance since her lower-body injury, Leubecker picked up right where she left off.

“She lit it up when she first went out there and that kind of ignited the spark that we needed,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “It was a great energy for us to kind of play off of.”

However, the Scarlet Knights clapped back, winning the next draw control and scoring quickly. Rutgers was extremely patient, holding the ball and waiting for an open passing option.

Eventually, star attacker Marin Hartshorn found Ashley Moynahan cutting just left of the cage, and she beat graduate defender Abby Bosco’s breakup attempt on the shot to tie the game.

The Terps dominated the next five minutes of game time, moving the ball around with confidence and conviction. On one score, freshman midfielder Kori Edmondson received a pass from 20 yards out, and without hesitation fired a bullet across the field to a streaking Leubecker, who capitalized on the opportunity.

Leubecker scored the Terps’ first four goals, with only one coming on a free-position shot. In some ways, it was refreshing to see them execute a consistent style of offense. In the first quarter Saturday, Maryland’s attack was full of movement and skilled isolation scoring.

In particular, Edmondson and senior attacker Libby May each had goals that highlighted their spatial awareness, speed, agility and quick-release shots.

In the first frame, Maryland’s defense was once again aggressive and put ample pressure on the Rutgers midfield and attack groups. At times, the Terps’ approach went well, causing a number of errant passes and turnovers. In other circumstances, their pressure mentality backfired, and the Scarlet Knights’ quick decision-making found an open player within the vicinity of the cage.

At the end of the first quarter, Maryland led 7-5.

The first portion of the second frame was a hard-nosed defensive battle where no scoring took place. Each squad’s defense kept attackers at bay after a highly-contested first quarter full of scoring.

The teams found it difficult to enter even the 12-meter fan, and if it was attempted, it was shut down immediately. Through the first 10 minutes, Maryland had only one shot attempt.

It even had a two-minute woman-up opportunity but could not capitalize. The Scarlet Knights’ suddenly-composed defense was stifling.

“First half, I thought we turned the ball over way too much, which we did with 10 turnovers,” Reese said. “Rutgers has done a really nice job this season of switching things up...we knew that we were going to see a little of their zone and a little of their man [coverage].”

Finally, with 4:49 remaining in the half, May broke the silence when she scored her second goal of the game on a free-position opportunity.

In the final minute of the half, Maryland gave up a heartbreaker with just 18 seconds remaining. The score came from a front-net cutter, which Maryland had previously done so well covering for the past 14 minutes.

But Maryland recovered instantly, winning the draw control and shoveling it ahead to Leubecker, who placed a shot perfectly in the top-left corner for a goal with just two seconds left. It was her fifth of the game, and the Terps took a 9-6 lead into the break.

In the third quarter, the Terps got out to a hot start, scoring three goals in the first five minutes of playing time. Each came from a different scorer, and each was a unique goal.

May scored first, utilizing her cutting abilities and capitalizing on a pass by junior attacker Eloise Clevenger from directly behind the net. Edmondson’s second goal was similar to her first — she isolated to the left of the net and dodged before lifting her stick high above her head and bouncing the ball right at the goal line for the score.

Clevenger’s goal came from X. She was not directly pressured, so she creeped around the side of the cage and snuck one into the corner before the Scarlet Knight defense could react.

Clevenger had another goal later in the quarter that embodied her skillset well, which is to operate in tight spaces around the cage. It ended up being the final score of the frame, one in which the Terps dominated wholly.

“There were a couple of moments when I had my defenders beat,” Clevenger said of her attack mentality. “Sometimes it’s just about being a threat and actually taking it to goal instead of making that pass.”

In the fourth quarter, the Terps continued their momentum from the previous frame and stalled the Rutgers offense. While on offense themselves, they were patient, focused, and rarely sloppy.

Maryland has progressed extremely well when it comes to closing out games. Earlier in the season, it allowed runs by teams who were not as skilled, allowing it to work its way back into the game. This afternoon, however, the Terps were steady, winning the final frame 2-0 and coasting to a victory.

Three things to know

1. Leubecker’s emphatic return. After missing two games due to injury, Leubecker came back in style, scoring within the first two minutes of play and never looking back. Her first five shots were all goals, and she also had both a caused turnover and a ground ball in the first half.

“It just happened,” Leubecker said. “I was excited to get those opportunities to be able to put some away.”

The Terps’ second-leading goal-scorer on the season did not add anything to the scoresheet in the second half, partly because other players began to see playing time as Maryland increased its lead. Nonetheless, the win would not have been possible without Leubecker’s efforts, and she illustrated the extra dimension that she adds to the offense well.

2. Draw control battle. The draw control disparity is worth noting because coming into Saturday’s game, Rutgers defender Meghan Ball had the most draw controls per game in the Big Ten. However, the Terps delivered in this facet of the game, winning the battle 19-8. Shaylan Ahearn delivered with seven draw controls, while Bosco had six. On Rutgers, Ball had five, and nobody else came close to matching her total.

“I thought our draw crew was great,” Reese said. “They had to move the ball to the other side of the circle ... because Abby was coming up with [ground balls]. But Abby was still able to come away with most of them.”

3. Shooting percentage. The Terps very well may have had their best shooting performance of the season Saturday. They finished with 28 shots, 23 of which were on net. They had 16 goals to show for it.

All season long, Reese has spoken of the fantastic shooters Maryland has. May, Edmondson and Leubecker highlight the talent in that department. She has also talked about how as a result of this, she expects a shooting percentage of at least .500. Saturday, the Terps were easily able to meet this number. It will be compelling to see if Maryland can carry this performance into its next matchup against Penn.

“These guys were firing and we were finishing plays,” Reese said. “Everyone was getting involved in different looks in different ways.”