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NCAA Tournament second round preview: Maryland women’s lacrosse vs. No. 7 James Madison

The Terps look to down the hosts and advance to the quarterfinals.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Maryland women’s lacrosse held off a late push from Drexel Friday to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Terps were stifling on defense, holding the Dragons to just 12 shots and two goals in the first half of play. Graduate defender Abby Bosco ended the contest with five caused turnovers, three ground balls and three draw controls.

Maryland’s attack was aggressive from the onset, capitalizing on three free position opportunities in the first frame. Senior attackers Libby May and Hannah Leubecker led the way with two goals apiece, while redshirt junior Kate Sites provided a spark off the bench with two scores of her own.

Drexel attempted a late comeback in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Terps 3-1, but it proved futile as the Terps cruised to their eighth straight first-round victory.

Maryland will now seek retribution against a familiar foe in No. 7 James Madison.

The Dukes secured a trip to the second round after defeating Army 12-8 in their first round contest. Star attacker Isabella Peterson netted four goals and notched an assist. James Madison outshot the Black Knights 40-21 and scooped up a staggering 24 ground balls.

Sunday’s game begins at 1 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN Plus.

What happened last time

Maryland fell just short in its last bout with James Madison, succumbing to the Dukes on March 1, 8-7. Despite the loss, the Terps highlighted a number of positives on the defensive end, going 16-for-16 on clears. In addition, head coach Cathy Reese commended the backend for forcing multiple turnovers inside the 12-meter fan.

On offense, the Terps actually outshot the Dukes 29-16. Their issue was sloppiness on attack, as they went just 5-for-12 on free position opportunities. Furthermore, Maryland committed a fair share of shot clock violations and failed to adjust accordingly against a notably successful James Madison zone defense.

In the fourth quarter, the Terps scored three straight goals in a matter of minutes. The attack played with a great deal of pace in the frame, forcing the Dukes to commit foul after foul. But in the end, the last-minute push wasn’t enough, and Maryland dropped its second game of the season.

What’s happened since

Maryland lost its very next game to then-No. 9 Denver, 8-7. The Pioneers — who notoriously have one of the best defenses in the country — staved off the Terps offense. Maryland only managed 23 shots in the affair. It was the only time the Terps suffered back-to-back defeats this season.

Following the loss, the Terps went on a nine-game winning streak, vanquishing the likes of then-No. 15 Michigan and No. 17 Princeton in the process. Freshman midfielder Kori Edmondson progressed during the win streak, scoring 25 goals and notching seven hat tricks in that span. The Terps lost their final two regular season games to Penn State and Northwestern, though. They then cruised to the Big Ten Tournament final before being bested yet again by Northwestern, 14-9.

Since its victory over Maryland, James Madison has been fantastic. It went undefeated in the regular season, seizing matches over then-No. 8 Florida and No. 12 Virginia. In the American Athletic Conference Tournament, the Dukes beat Cincinnati in the first round before falling to Florida, 9-8.

Three things to watch

1. Stopping Isabella Peterson. The redshirt junior attacker was one of the most prolific scorers in the nation this season, scoring 82 goals. In addition, she won a staggering 84 draw controls, which handily led the Dukes.

Peterson scored two of her team’s eight goals against Maryland earlier this year. The Terps defense struggled to contain Peterson’s 6-foot frame and impressive shooting abilities. It will be interesting to see if Maryland’s opts to assign Bosco as the primary defender, or if the duties will be given to 5-foot-10 Marge Donovan.

2. Adjusting to the zone defense. Reese had some qualms with how the Terps adapted their offense to the Dukes’ zone defense in their first matchup. The attack was discombobulated, and cuts to the cage weren’t as frequent or sharp as normal.

Maryland’s attack unit has grown since that match and has been able to fight through adversity. With the evolution of junior attackers Chrissy Thomas and Eloise Clevenger, the Terps offense has much more effective at attacking from behind the net.

3. Who will step up? It’s bound to be another defensive battle between these two squads. Both programs lead their respective conferences in goals against average. This begs the question: who will be the difference-maker on attack?

In the Terps’ past few contests, a plethora of scorers have stepped up when called upon. May, Thomas, Clevenger and Sites have all been integral cogs on offense. Against a prolific James Madison defense, it may not be one scorer that carries the load, but rather a number of different attackers chipping in.