Heading into the contest against Ohio State, redshirt junior attacker Kate Sites had just two scores for second-seeded Maryland women’s lacrosse on the season. In Saturday’s quarterfinal, she tallied two monumental scores to aid the Terps in their hard-fought victory.
Her second score was the most salient, as it snapped a Maryland scoring drought early in the fourth quarter. It ended up providing a spark of energy for the Terps, who defeated the No. 7-seed Buckeyes, 11-7.
“We were running through a lot of different people and I think Kate stepped up for us,” head coach Cathy Reese WSsaid. “She was moving the ball well and so we kept her in there ... overall, it’s great to see people step up when they have the chance.”
Maryland’s offense went to work immediately, causing Ohio State switch on defense. In doing so, it was able to exploit some favorable matchups. The ball found junior junior attacker Eloise Clevenger’s stick, and she fired a pass into the crease. A cutting senior midfielder Shaylan Ahearn was the recipient, and she put the Terps up 1-0.
After a second consecutive draw control victory, Clevenger fed freshman midfielder Kori Edmondson on the left wing. With her propensity for driving to the net, Edmondson cashed in with a bouncing shot.
The Buckeyes were stymied on their first few offense possessions. The Terps double-teamed their attackers on the wing and caused multiple turnovers in the crease area. When Ohio State attackers attempted to enter the eight-meter arc with the ball, the Terps’ defenders converged.
However, Ohio State was able to collect itself. Junior goalkeeper Regan Alexander made a few spectacular saves, and it resulted in offense on the other end. A smooth take by junior attacker Jamie Lasda and a free-position score minutes later by sophomore midfielder Annie Hargraves knotted the score.
But Maryland concluded the quarter on a high note. Goals by Sites and senior attacker Libby May, and a second score by Edmondson, regained momentum for the Terps. A sweet stop by senior goalkeeper Emily Sterling cemented what was an overall exceptional quarter for the Terps, who led 5-2.
The second frame commenced with some early stifling defense. Ohio State was forced to call a timeout after it couldn’t get the ball past midfield, and committed a shot-clock violation just minutes later.
“Defensively, we put ourselves in situations where Emily (Sterling) can make the save,” Reese said. “We gave up a few 8-meters...overall, I love our growth defensively.”
The two programs then traded scores, both of which were passes to cutting players through the middle of the field. On the Maryland score, May got her second of the day, with the help coming from Clevenger — her fourth assist of the day.
Both goalkeepers were brilliant in the frame, though, putting up four saves apiece.
With an aggressive end to the quarter for the Terps, junior attacker Chrissy Thomas — who was filling in for the injured senior attacker Hannah Leubecker — put Maryland up three entering the half.
To begin the third period, Ohio State won just its second draw control of the contest. An early foul led to a free-position opportunity, and the Buckeyes capitalized.
With Ohio State playing much more aggressively than the last game between the programs, it became tougher for the Terps to completely assert themselves. Nonetheless, Maryland always seemed to have a counter-punch. Three minutes into the frame, May netted her third to cap off her ninth hat trick of the season and the 27th of her career.
On offense, Maryland got bottled up. Ohio State adjusted nicely to the net-front cuts. The Buckeyes also doubled the Terps’ midfielders at the 12-meter fan. The continued pressure resulted in a shot-clock violation following an unsuccessful free-position opportunity.
However, Maryland’s defense was also up to the challenge, as it too forced a shot-clock violation. Sterling also foiled a number of free-position chances for the Buckeyes. At the end of the third quarter, Maryland led 8-6.
The final frame began with turnovers by both programs, and an unsuccessful free-position opportunity by the Terps.
“I think that’s kind of something we’ve been struggling with all season,” May said. “That’s something that we really want to work on and kind of clean up as we go further into the postseason, because that’s what’s going to separate champions from people that have to end their season early.”
Minutes later, following some back-and-forth action with no scoring, Edmondson earned herself a free position shot, but was unsuccessful. However, she was able to redeem the effort by drawing an Ohio State foul.
On the woman-up, unlikely hero Sites gave Maryland a much-needed cushion. It clearly fueled the offense, as the steady May netted her fourth goal of the game to put the Terps up by four. Meanwhile, Ahearn earned her second point of the match with the assist.
With a comfortable lead, Maryland did as it does best — maintain possession and chew clock for the remainder of the match.
Three things to know
1. Draw control superiority. Maryland is one of the best teams at draw controls in the nation, and it continued that dominance Saturday. It won 19 of 22 draws, which was key in the close victory.
“I think we went into this game as a draw unit super excited and pumped up,” Ahearn said. “Having Abby [Bosco], Shannon [Smith] and Kori [Edmondson] on the circle with me makes all the difference in the world. They’re boxing out for me. They’re picking up the balls that I miss.”
2. The goalkeepers shined. This would have surely been a high-scoring affair had both goalies not been sensational. Sterling had 10 total saves and Alexander had 11. Heading into the match, goalkeeping was a well-known strength of the two programs. Saturday, both shined bright, making seemingly impossible stops on point-blank scoring opportunities.
“She’s just the best goalie I’ve ever seen,” Ahearn said. “Playing with her gives you so much confidence as a defense knowing that she’s behind you. You get to take a little bit more risk.”
3. Resiliency from the Terps. After having one of its best matches of the season against Ohio State less than one month ago, the Terps came out a bit sluggish on Saturday. Committing 15 turnovers and going just 2-for-8 on free positions, it was evident that the Terps thought they were in for an easier match.
Despite that, it was a welcome sight for Maryland fans to see their team take control of the game in the fourth quarter. Leading by just two heading into the final frame, the Terps took over, beating the Buckeyes to numerous ground balls and exhibiting a high level of energy. The grittiness displayed by the Terps should bode well for them as the postseason rolls on.
“I think we stepped up,” Reese said. “We finished a couple plays, which took some time off the clock ... I think it was another area of growth for our team today.”