No. 10 Maryland women’s lacrosse continued its winning streak Wednesday night when it returned to College Park and defeated No. 17 Princeton, 15-11.
From the jump, the Terps took control over the Tigers, with attackers Libby May and Eloise Clevenger chipping in early and often. Despite its 16 turnovers and Princeton’s late run, Maryland never felt like it was in danger of losing, in large part due to goalkeeper Emily Sterling’s heroics. She recorded her second straight home game with 15 saves and has posted a .567 save percentage over the six-game winning streak.
It was also the Terps’ last nonconference game of the season. Their final five matchups will be concentrated in the Big Ten. Maryland will start this journey when it faces off against No. 15 Michigan.
Michigan commenced its season with three straight ranked matchups, winning the first but losing the latter two. Much like Maryland, the Wolverines have only lost to opponents ranked in the top 25. Michigan is currently on a two-game winning streak, in which it has outscored its opponents by a combined total of 36-6.
Sunday’s game will begin at 12 p.m. and air on Big Ten Network.
Michigan Wolverines (9-4, 2-1 Big Ten)
2022 record: 11-7 (2-4 Big Ten)
Head coach Hannah Nielsen is one of the best women’s lacrosse players of all time, winning the national title four times and the Tewaaraton Award twice at Northwestern. She is currently in her sixth season at the helm of Michigan women’s lacrosse. In her time with the Wolverines, she propelled the program to two of their best campaigns in its history. Last season, she led the team to the NCAA Tournament after it won its first seven games of the season. The squad then won its first-round matchup against Notre Dame, which was only its second postseason victory ever.
Players to watch
Maya Santa-Maria, junior goalkeeper, No. 44 — Last season as a sophomore, Santa-Maria saw playing time in just two games and made two saves total. This year, the script was flipped, as Santa-Maria was recently named an Inside Lacrosse Midseason All-American. She has started all 13 games for the Wolverines and boasts a .509 save percentage, which leads the Big Ten. She has 83 saves so far on the season.
Maddie Burns, junior defender, No. 13 — Burns is the second of three Inside Lacrosse Midseason All-Americans on Michigan’s roster. Before the season began, she was named to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List. She has produced tremendously for the Wolverines, leading them in ground balls (24) and caused turnovers (18), and ranking third in draw control wins (31).
Jill Smith, sophomore attacker, No. 14 — Smith is the final Wolverine to be named an IL Midseason All-American. Additionally, on March 9, she was added to the Tewaaraton Award Watch List. Smith already has 45 goals this season, which places her second nationally and first on the Wolverines’ all-time list. Additionally, she ranks second on the team in draw control wins with 34.
Goalkeeping. Already highlighted, Maya Santa-Maria has been nearly impeccable in net this season. As a result, the Wolverines gave up only seven goals to No. 9 Denver and four goals to No. 23 Rutgers. Aside from save percentage, Michigan also leads the Big Ten with a goals against average of 8.63.
Tough competition. Michigan is 0-4 against top-10 programs, and three of those four games weren’t particularly close. In their 16-8 loss to No. 3 Northwestern, the Wolverines were down 12-3 at the half and posted just 18 total shots to Northwestern’s 38. Even in its 7-5 loss to Denver, Michigan was outshot 28-16 and had 15 turnovers.
Three things to watch
1. Maryland’s surging offense. Currently, Maryland’s offense simply cannot be stopped. With attacker Hannah Leubecker having returned to the lineup about a week ago, the attack is healthy and hungry. As head coach Cathy Reese put it the other day, Eloise Clevenger has grown as a player since last season, and her confidence has been on full display. Not only has she maintained her passing prowess, but she’s added to her bag of tricks and become an adept goal scorer.
In addition, midfielder Kori Edmondson now has a goal in eight straight games and midfielder Shaylan Ahearn was just recently named an IL Midseason All-American and remains a force on draw controls.
2. Defensive battle. Michigan isn’t the only great goalkeeping team in the Big Ten. Maryland’s Emily Sterling has been playing at an All-American level lately and has rocketed the Terps into second place in the conference in both save percentage and goals against average.
It will be interesting to see which of the teams prevail in this highly contested facet of the game. However, while Michigan has faltered against high-powered opponents, Maryland has consistently kept ranked opponents in check, especially as of late.
3. Repeat of last time? In the last affair between Maryland and Michigan, the Terps won the Big Ten outright in a 13-8 victory. Clevenger and May, two of the team’s brightest stars Wednesday night, showed out in the squad’s last regular season game of 2022. In fact, Clevenger marked her career high in goals (4) and points (6) in the contest.
It will be interesting to see whether the tides will turn in Michigan’s favor this time, as it looks for revenge. Or, will the Terps continue their superb play, capitalize on their scoring opportunities and produce a similar result?