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No. 12 Maryland women’s lacrosse handled by No. 2 Northwestern, 13-6

The Terps fell in their final game of the regular season.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Down 9-5 heading into the fourth quarter, No. 12 Maryland women’s lacrosse desperately needed a spark of energy to fuel a comeback against the No. 2 Northwestern Wildcats.

However, the offense stalled, only posting one shot to the Wildcats’ 11 in the frame, and Northwestern ran away, winning the match, 13-6. The victory gave it the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.

After an early draw control win, the Wildcats wasted no time in attacking the cage. Receiving the ball at the top of the 12-meter fan, sensational attacker Izzy Scane blew past Maryland defender Abby Bosco for a quick left-handed finish.

Despite midfielder Shaylan Ahearn winning the next draw control outright, there was no room to work with, and the offense turned the ball over rather quickly. The next offensive possession was more successful, resulting in two shots on net, but still no score.

Meanwhile, Northwestern had no early issues on the offensive side, scoring three times in its first four shots. Its ball movement was rapid, and attackers were cutting too quickly for the Maryland defenders to react.

Before long, however, Maryland found its offensive groove. The Eloise Clevenger-to-Libby May connection struck to put Maryland on the board. With Clevenger’s acumen as a distributor and May’s knack for net-front quick-release scores, they made it look rather easy.

Maryland goaltender Emily Sterling made some key stops in the first frame, shutting down Northwestern on a few point-blank shots as well as a free-position opportunity.

Twice Maryland went a woman up, and it capitalized on the latter of the two opportunities. Ahearn was able to spot up in the middle of the Northwestern zone and bring the Terps to within one.

Following a last-second Northwestern free-position score, the Wildcats led 4-2 after the first frame.

The second quarter commenced with an Ahearn draw control and subsequent score. Attacker Chrissy Thomas had the great feed from the wing, and minutes later netted one of her own.

The Terps slowly became more comfortable on the defensive side of the ball, sticking to their coverages and not allowing attackers like Scane to easily penetrate the alley. Sterling continued to impress, making huge stops at critical moments, including on a woman-down situation to give Maryland possession.

Northwestern goaltender Molly Laliberty had some great sequences as well, including a brilliant diving save while being a woman up.

For the duration of the second period, both programs traded empty possessions, even on woman-up opportunities. Northwestern was even bottled up to the point where it committed a few shot-clock violations.

It was the first time in the past two seasons that Northwestern was shut out in a quarter of play. The score after two frames was 4-4, with Maryland carrying the momentum into the second half.

“We were very disciplined and we worked as a unit,” Ahearn said. “We were talking, communication was really high and we all had each other’s backs.”

The third quarter started off with a fourth yellow card by Northwestern. However, after a Laliberty save, the Wildcats were able to waste away a bulk of the time while a woman down. Soon after, a superb cross-crease pass put Elle Hansen in a perfect position to give the Wildcats a 5-4 lead.

Minutes later, the top contender for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Madison Taylor, added on to the scoring for the Wildcats. Northwestern was victorious on the first three draw controls of the frame, giving them far more opportunities to convert on offense.

About seven minutes into the quarter, Maryland scored its first goal since the early portion of the second frame; Clevenger was the beneficiary. Shortly after, Taylor earned herself a hat trick, finding a soft spot after a Northwestern attacker was doubled at the 12-meter fan.

In the third frame, Northwestern’s top attack of Coykendall, Scane and Hailey Rhatigan began to take shape. As the ball continued to move around with pace, Maryland’s defense became noticeably tired. As a result, it gave the Wildcats quite a few free-position opportunities.

After Northwestern’s run, Maryland trailed 9-5 after three frames.

“I need to do a better job of getting our offense ready, because I missed the mark on that,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “We weren’t able to execute our game plan offensively.”

The Wildcats scored within the first minute-and-a-half of the fourth frame, extending their lead to five goals. Laliberty continued her sensational play, taking control of nearly all of Maryland’s shots. As a result, Northwestern was able to comfortably waste away a decent chunk of time.

Maryland made a few uncharacteristic turnovers in the frame, even giving the ball away on a clear attempt. The Terps have been the No. 1 clearing team in the nation this season.

Overall, a lack of urgency and the inability to win some late draw controls inhibited the Terps from ever scraping their way back into the contest.

“I think that we all have a good head on our shoulders,” Ahearn said. “We have the opportunity for a whole new week of lacrosse.”

Three things to know

1. Second-quarter defensive battle. In the second frame, after two early scores by Maryland, both offenses went silent. It was a combination of turnovers, amazing goaltending and tightly-contested defense that made for an entertaining sequence.

In the period, Maryland had seven shots to Northwestern’s six. In addition, the Wildcats had three turnovers. Both goalies shined, as Sterling made three saves in the frame while Laliberty had five. For the game, Sterling ended with 13 saves, and Laliberty had 8.

“We held them throughout the game pretty significantly,” Reese said. “I think there’s some positives to take from that. Emily [Sterling] had a great game too.”

2. Third-quarter issues. The score went from 4-4 at halftime to 9-5 after the conclusion of the third frame. So, what led to this monumental run by Northwestern?

It all started with draw controls. The Wildcats won five draw controls to the Terps’ two. It allowed their trio of star attackers to get into rhythm, which tired out the Maryland defenders.

In the quarter, the Terps gave up two free-position scores and turned the ball over four times. Despite picking up five ground balls, Maryland was unable to convert them into any sort of offensive production.

“We were on defense for a lot of the game and Northwestern is a team that generates a lot of shots,” Reese said. “We either turned the ball over in transition after making big stops, or we just couldn’t get the ball into our offensive end to do what we needed to do.”

3. A game of fouls. The free-position shot totals for both programs wasn’t all that surprising, as the Terps had four opportunities from the arc to to the Wildcats’ seven. However, Maryland had 20 total fouls with three cards, and Northwestern accumulated 21 fouls with five cards of its own.

Even with the number of woman-up opportunities that the Terps found themselves in, they couldn’t capitalize on the majority of them. With more physical play present against top-flight opponents, Maryland will need to learn to adjust its offense accordingly.