After two straight losses to close out the regular season, No. 2-seed Maryland women’s lacrosse will look to right its ship in the Big Ten Tournament when it faces No. 7-seed Ohio State in the quarterfinals.
Last season, the Terps defeated No. 22 Johns Hopkins, 14-6, in the semifinal game. Graduate attacker Aurora Cordingley posted seven points in the outing. The team then took down No. 13 Rutgers in the championship game, 18-8, en route to yet another NCAA Tournament bid.
Northwestern, which went 15-1 over the course of the regular season, took possession of this year’s first-round bye. The winner of the Michigan vs. Penn State game will take on the Wildcats in the semifinals, while the winner of Maryland’s match will play the victor of the Johns Hopkins vs. Rutgers duel.
Saturday’s game will begin at 4:30 p.m. and stream on Big Ten Plus.
What happened last time
Maryland enjoyed one of its best performances of the season when it last took on the Buckeyes. Not once trailing, attacker Eloise Clevenger set the program record for single-game assists with eight. She also posted one goal, one ground ball and forced two turnovers.
In addition, the defense played to its ceiling, holding Ohio State to just 16 total shots and forcing them into 17 turnovers. Abby Bosco won seven draw controls, scooped up four ground balls and caused four turnovers of her own.
The Terps were quite efficient as well, scoring 18 goals on just 27 shots. They had eight different offensive players contribute to the scoring output. Winning the draw control battle 19-10, Maryland’s offense was able to play at its ideal pace.
Meanwhile, Ohio State had trouble finding consistent momentum on the offense side of the ball. Its first two scores were the result of free-position chances, and any attempt to take on Maryland’s defenders one-on-one were quickly shut down.
The Terps forced the Buckeyes into committing 11 fouls in one frame, which accounted for five free-position opportunities.
What’s happened since
Maryland dropped its last two contests by scores of 12-7 and 13-6 to Penn State and Northwestern, respectively. In both matches, the Terps lagged behind. Against Penn State, they committed seven more turnovers than the Nittany Lions and scooped up seven fewer ground balls.
Against Northwestern, the Terps were outshot 34-19 and were defeated in the draw control circle. After the score was tied at the half, Northwestern scored five of the six goals in the third frame and the first three goals of the fourth quarter to effectively put the game away.
Ohio State also lost its last two games of the 2023 campaign, but displayed valiant efforts in both contests. The Buckeyes first lost to Northwestern, 17-11, with attacker Jamie Lasda leading the Buckeyes with four goals. They then traveled to Rutgers, where they fell 13-12 in overtime. Ohio State won the draw control battle 17-11 but had seven less shots than the Scarlet Knights.
Three things to watch
1. Same game plan? In its last match against Ohio State, Maryland took advantage of the Buckeyes’ weaknesses. Ohio State places dead-last in draw controls per game in the conference, while Maryland slots in at second, just behind Northwestern.
Given this disparity, it would not be surprising to see the Terps take a slow approach on attack. If they’re garnering the majority of possessions, then it would make sense for them to be more calculated and less erratic. This approach would surely lead to less opportunities for mistakes and careless giveaways, which can happen when the stakes are high.
2. The goalkeeper matchup. One of Ohio State’s strengths this season has been the play of its goalkeeper, Regan Alexander. Despite the subpar performance of the defense in front of her, Alexander leads the Big Ten with 157 saves and ranks third with a .473 save percentage. Against Northwestern, she posted a .500 save percentage and 15 saves.
Emily Sterling has been spectacular in her own merit, ranking second in save percentage (.483) and third in goals against average (9.41). She had an equally impressive performance against Northwestern with 13 saves and a .500 save percentage.
3. A new season. The playoffs are a different beast. No longer are teams worried about rankings, matchups and seeding. It’s all about winning and advancing. The Terps are no stranger to the bright lights. Head coach Cathy Reese, who has led Maryland to 22 conference championships, knows it will come down to execution.
“I think our focus this week is getting back to Maryland lacrosse,” Reese said. “You can’t get caught up in who your opponent is. Whoever it is, you need to execute and you have to stick to your game plan.”
With the Terps losing their last two games of the regular season, it will be interesting to see how they come out on Saturday.