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No. 9 Denver outlasts No. 5 Maryland women’s lacrosse, 8-7

Maryland was just 2-for-8 on free position opportunities.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics
Twitter @MarylandWLax

In the final two minutes, Maryland women’s lacrosse head coach Cathy Reese called a timeout to set up a play in hopes of tying the game at eight against No. 9 Denver.

After a falling-away shot that was saved and a subsequent forced turnover, the No. 5 Terps managed to get the ball back with just under 20 seconds remaining. However, the Terps misfired their final pass and yet again fell just short against the Pioneers, losing 8-7.

“This is just a season where we’re going to have to learn from each experience and opportunity,” Reese said.

To start the first quarter, the Terps flashed their pace on offense before a careless turnover ended a great string of passes.

They rebounded quickly, however, disrupting Denver on a fast break opportunity and causing a turnover of their own. On their subsequent possession, they earned a free position chance but couldn’t capitalize. Heading into the match, executing free position opportunities was a huge point of emphasis.

Maryland’s defense began right where it left off against James Madison, deflecting a pass and causing a shot clock violation.

On the Terps’ second free position opportunity of the day, the shot was deflected over the goal, and the Pioneers were able to eventually able to force a shot clock violation of their own.

Back and forth the Terps and Pioneers went, and both defenses proved why they’re among the very best in the nation. About seven minutes into the first quarter, though, Maryland’s offense demonstrated that it was too quick for the Pioneers. On their third free position opportunity of the day, true freshman midfielder Kori Edmondson netted her fourth of the season.

Just minutes later, after working the ball around the perimeter to no avail, attacker Hannah Leubecker found Edmondson. At the edge of the 12 meter fan, Edmondson made a swift dodge to her left, switched hands, and with a release as quick as any, put it top shelf.

“I wouldn’t have that opportunity to even go to the goal without [my teammates] clearing through,” Edmondson said. “Everyone on the team just has [each other’s] back.”

Overall, the first quarter highlighted a glimpse as to what the Terps’ true identity should be: their defense. Despite two late goals — both of which took top-notch skill — the Terps were mostly stifling.

In the second frame, the Terps allowed the Pioneers two quick free position shots, the latter of which they capitalized on.

About four minutes into the quarter, attacker Libby May illustrated the potential key to success for the Terps’ offense: movement and cutting. She made a quick beeline for the front of the crease and Leubecker was able to easily locate her for a score.

The theme of this quarter was the Terps’ inability to penetrate the physical Pioneer defense. Denver was more than fine with committing a few fouls because the Terps often weren’t making them pay for it.

Alternatively, the Pioneers essentially won the quarter by executing their free position chances. They lead 5-3 at the half.

To begin the third quarter, Denver attacker Julia Gilbert found the back of the net for the Pioneers. It was her third of the game, giving the Pioneers a 6-3 lead.

Shortly after, Denver attacker Lauren Black parted the defense and drove straight down the center for an impressive unassisted goal. There was simply not enough physicality to contain the Pioneers’ best offensive player.

However, the Terps began to crawl back, first with attacker Eloise Clevenger on a tight shot, snaking from behind the goal. Shortly after, Leubecker displayed her one-on-one skills, dogding past no less than three defenders and firing a bullet past goalkeeper Emelia Bohi.

Near the end of the frame, Edmondson highlighted her supreme isolation offense, essentially imitating Leubecker’s goal from earlier in the quarter. It was her third of the game, and the first hat trick of her college career.

“Kori, I think you could see how hard she went and what a tough player she is,” Reese said. “This is just the starting point as we get going into her career as a Terp.”

Ultimately, the third quarter was a back-and-forth battle, but the Terps clearly had the advantage in time of possession. This allowed them to win the quarter and cut the Pioneers’ lead to one goal. At the start of the final quarter, Denver held a 7-6 lead.

The fourth quarter was a mostly physical defensive battle. One goal apiece from either side was all that occurred for the final 15 minutes.

“A goalie is only as good as the defense in front of them,” goalie Emily Sterling said. “As our defense has come together more, I’ve been looking at easier shots to save.”

Ultimately, the Terps’ offense stalled in the outing, and they will need to have some answers for closing out these tight games.

The Terps will take on William & Mary on Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Three things to know

1. Performance on defense. The Terps are a speedy and skilled set of players that converge well on the ball. Defenders Abby Bosco and Kennedy Major headline this bunch of players, and rightfully so. However, there were instances when the Terps were not physical enough in one-on-one defense. They allowed players to dodge past them without much resistance being given.

As a team, they slide and support very well. Sunday, they caused seven turnovers, were 14-for-14 on clears and Sterling had eight saves.

“We’re limiting shots. We’re limiting opportunities,” Reese said. “We gave up less than 20 shots. We put Emily in the position to be 50%.”

2. Free position woes. The Terps have been hot and cold on free position opportunities to begin the season. Sunday, the Terps were a dismal 2-for-8. In some ways, it was a testament to Bohi’s saves, but for the most part, the Terps were making it easy for her by shooting directly at her.

The Terps are too skilled on offense to be reduced to a free position shooting team. It has to come down to execution on the plays they run, which occurred few and far between today. Defenses will want to be physical with Maryland in the future; the Terps simply have to show that they can take the physicality, and make their opponents pay for it.

“Our shooting wasn’t where it needs to be,” Reese emphasized. “We can’t be 2-for-8 on 8 meter [shots]. We can’t be less than 50% (shooting) and beat anybody.”

3. The offense was just average. Aside from Leubecker and Edmondson’s occasional heroics, the offense was shut down for the most part. Denver’s defense, which is its calling card, switched extremely well, slid exceptionally and played with conviction overall.

When the Terps attempted to move the ball quickly, Denver was with them every step of the way. If they ever tried to penetrate the eight-meter arc, the Pioneers smothered them and simply fouled, forcing Maryland into free position shots. Other than free position chances, the Terps’ shot 7-of-23. This facet of the game will need to improve for the Terps, who also had a season high 17 turnovers.

“We were uncharacteristically dropping balls...sometimes without even being contested,” Reese said. “Our goal for us; I want to be under 10 turnovers at the end of the game.”