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Maryland women’s lacrosse vs. Johns Hopkins Big Ten tournament preview

The Terps look to keep their hot streak going in Ann Arbor.

NCAA Womens Lacrosse: National Championship Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Maryland women’s lacrosse team’s regular season has come and gone, and the Terps finished with a 16-1 record. Their reward? A No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament in Ann Arbor this weekend.

Megan Whittle has been the heartbeat of this team, and for good reason—her 77 points lead the team by a wide margin, and she recently broke Jen Adams’ record for career goals scored. But Maryland’s program is predicated on depth, and that was made evident by six players being named to the all-conference team on Wednesday. That doesn’t even include Megan Taylor, the reigning National Goaltender of the Year.

As the defending national champions, the moment is never too big for these Terrapins. They possess all the experience and maturity a team could ever want, which could signal more hardware being put in the trophy case in a matter of weeks.

With the postseason about to get underway and the stakes increasing with every game, let’s take a look at Maryland’s first opponent: the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays.

Get to know Johns Hopkins

Record: 10-7 (3-3 Big Ten)

How did they get here? With a 16-11 victory at Rutgers in the team’s regular season finale, the Blue Jays finished fourth in the conference. That earned them a No. 4 seed and a Friday matchup against the Terps.

Offensive standout: Junior attacker Miranda Ibello has been tremendous for the Blue Jays thus far, finishing the regular season with 59 points, which leads the team. That includes an astounding 37 assists, and her 2.18 assists per game ranks second in the conference.

Defensive standout: Haley Crosson’s play has kept Johns Hopkins as competitive as they’ve been this season. The junior goaltender only played for 35 minutes in 2017, but in 2018 she’s showed just how talented she truly is. Her 8.88 saves per game is good for second in the conference, and a save percentage of .475 is within the top-25 nationally.

Top newcomer: Freshman midfielder Shelby Harrison has been invaluable to the Blue Jays this season. Despite only totaling nine goals on 38 shots, Harrison’s impact is most felt in the center circle. The freshman leads the team with 83 draw controls, and she totaled 11 in the Big Ten Tournament-clinching win over Rutgers.

Strength: Johns Hopkins is great in getting ground balls. Thanks to team leaders Caroline Hoeg and Crosson, the Blue Jays rank second in the Big Ten with 19.76 ground balls per game. It’s a pivotal facet for a defensive team to excel in, as they also rank No. 2 in the conference with 8.7 caused turnovers per game.

Weakness: Despite their success on the defensive end in takeaways, the Blue Jays can be extremely sloppy on offense against rigid opposing fronts. Their 15.6 turnovers per game are near the bottom in the conference, and it’s one of the things holding their offense back from being dominant.

Postseason outlook: Unfortunately for Johns Hopkins, this season hasn’t been good enough to earn an at-large bid. Even beating Maryland in the first round of the tournament likely wouldn’t boost their resume to enough make the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Jays have one path and one path only: win the Big Ten tournament and get the automatic qualifier.

Preview vs. Maryland

Time: Friday, May 4, 5 p.m. ET

Channel: BTN

Previous meeting: On March 17, Maryland dominated its Big Ten opener on the way to a 15-5 victory on the road in Baltimore.

How did Maryland win? Caroline Steele led the scoring with four goals on just six shots, but a trio of Terps, all team captains, had hat tricks in the blowout: Megan Whittle, Jen Giles, and Taylor Hensh. Goalie Megan Taylor had one of her best games of the season to boot, compiling seven saves to just five goals allowed.

What’s different? Kali Hartshorn and Grace Griffin have emerged as legitimate weapons over the course of the season. Against Hopkins the first time around, neither contributed much at all. Hartshorn had just two draw controls, and the two of them had just one goal each. But in the Big Ten tournament, both players will join a large group of Terps who can attack and take over at any given moment.

Prediction: Maryland wins, 17-8.