With No. 10 Maryland women’s lacrosse leading No. 15 Michigan 8-7 in the beginning of the fourth quarter, it was shaping up to be a closely contested finish to the match.
However, the Terps had different plans, as they went on a 5-0 scoring run in the final frame. Senior attacker Libby May was dominant, scoring five total goals, but contributions by a number of other players can’t be overlooked. Fourth-quarter scores by attackers Chrissy Thomas, Victoria Hensh and Shannon Smith highlighted the well-rounded nature of the Maryland squad. The Terps ended up dismantling the Wolverines, 13-7.
“It just added another dimension for us on offense when (goals) weren’t just coming from Libby,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “It’s just a couple different faces and people, and everyone was attacking hard.”
The match commenced with a draw control win by Maryland. Its first offensive possession resulted in a few shots, but none were true scoring opportunities. Michigan’s defense simply put enough pressure on the ball that the Terps’ shots never had full power behind them.
On the Wolverines’ first possession, the attack appeared to be a bit discombobulated, working the ball around for about 30 seconds before making an errant pass that scampered out of bounds.
Maryland struck first, with midfielder Jordyn Lipkin operating at the X position behind the net. Attacker Eloise Clevenger, who is typically present behind the cage, found a soft spot just feet from the crease. Using her quick release, Michigan’s netminder had no chance to even swivel her head around and react to the shot.
“I think (Clevenger) is good everywhere on the field, but she is a great feeder, and she can attack from behind, but she can also catch and score up front,” Reese said. “She just has the ability to make big plays and attack from different spots.”
Around a minute and a half later, midfielder Shaylan Ahearn put in an unassisted goal to give the Terps a two-goal cushion. It didn’t last long, though. Michigan midfielder Julia Schwabe straddled the crease and heaved an unbalanced shot that snuck past goalkeeper Emily Sterling, despite the heavy pressure from defender Kennedy Major.
Despite the subsequent timeout by the Terps, Michigan won the draw control and pulled off some amazing trickery in front of Maryland’s cage. It left an attacker wide open and even confused Sterling, who was unaware of the location of the ball.
The first frame was a defensive battle, and only decisive ball movement and deadly accurate shots resulted in scores. Safe to say, it was a hotly contested affair as Maryland led 3-2 after one quarter.
The second quarter began with another draw control win from Maryland. On their offensive possession, the Terps waited about a minute before getting into their set. It proved to be too long a time, as they ended up committing an early shot-clock violation.
Michigan’s offense was unable to produce anything, either, as its passing was concentrated around the perimeter. The lack of movement made it much easier for the Terps to stick to their assignments. Eventually, a drop led to a Wolverine turnover, and so Michigan’s time with the ball ceased without a single shot attempt.
After a second score from May, there was a significant stretch of time where turnovers and saves hindered both offenses. Michigan attacker Jill Smith, the nation’s second-leading scorer, eventually netted one for Michigan to bring it back within one.
With 11 seconds left in the half, Clevenger took matters into her own hands, putting her head down and working her way towards the net from just outside the 12-meter fan. When she got to the eight-meter arc, she released a missile that sailed past Michigan goalkeeper Maya Santa-Maria’s right ear.
The score put Maryland up 5-3 at the half.
Maryland began the third quarter with a woman-up advantage. The offense capitalized, working Ahearn open to the right of the cage. She made the extra pass to Thomas, who buried her first goal of the match while balancing the crease.
Attacker Hannah Leubecker continued the scoring run for the Terps, dodging one defender before cutting inside for a better angle and bouncing the ball off the goal line for the score.
Michigan began to implement its will thereafter, scoring three consecutive goals within minutes of one another to cut the Maryland lead down to two. The last of the three was a spectacular shot following a cut in front of the net to beat the shot clock.
However, May answered the call, as the Terps desperately needed a response. Her free position goal and third of the game hindered the Wolverines’ growing momentum.
The third quarter ended with Maryland with an 8-6 lead, albeit not a convincing one.
The fourth quarter opened with a Michigan score. The attacker simply cut through the middle of the eight-meter and found enough room to release a sidearm shot. Maryland answered soon after, with Ahearn making a cross-body, off-balance pass from the goal line extended to a cutting Thomas on the other side of the net. The score put Maryland up by two once more.
“Everybody matters on the field,” May said. “Something we always preach at Maryland lacrosse is that everybody needs to be dangerous ... we need those contributions and anybody in any given game can step up and make plays.”
The offense followed this up with a sensational woman-up goal in which Thomas intentionally passed the ball up high to May. With three other defenders in the vicinity, May reached higher than all of them and essentially hit it into the net for the prettiest goal of the day.
At this point in the match, Michigan’s energy and aggressiveness had mostly disappeared as the Terps held it scoreless for the rest of the match. What looked to be an exciting end to a mostly close game turned into a significant and encouraging victory for the home team.
“I just look at the energy and the environment that we have here and we’re so strong and tough when we play together,” Reese said. “As the game went on, you could see our confidence kind of grow in what we were doing, and we executed.”
Three things to know
1. Defense, defense, defense. It was expected that the outing would be a defensive battle going in. Both teams have two of the best goalkeepers in the nation and the top two goals-against averages in the Big Ten.
The statistics only further prove how locked in the defenses were. Maryland garnered 26 shots, while Michigan had 23. In addition, the Terps had 13 turnovers, while the Wolverines gave the ball away 12 times. In terms of goalie play, both netminders had good showings, with Sterling making 12 saves and Santa-Maria making 9.
2. Draw control dominance. Although the Terps won the draw control battle just 15-8, it was more about when they won the draws. The first quarter and latter half of the final frame was an absolutely dominant showing by the Terps.
With the Terps closing out their season strictly with Big Ten play, hotly contested matches will be the norm. It should be refreshing for Maryland fans to know that when the stakes get high, the skill that Maryland deploys in the draw control circle is able to quell any opposing scoring runs.
“When you win the draw it starts the offense,” defender Abby Bosco said. “It really comes down to, sometimes, just who has more heart there. You fight for everything; never give up on a play.”
3. Fouls and free positions. Both teams saw a jump in their fouling Sunday, with seven total cards issued. However, free-position attempts were lower than usual for both squads, with Michigan earning five and Maryland getting just three.
It represented a clear gameplan from both teams, emphasizing that both coaches were willing to go a woman down and rely on their defense rather than give attackers a free run at the cage. In the end, Maryland converted on one of its free positions while Michigan was successful on three.