The Maryland women’s lacrosse team opens its season this Saturday at 3 p.m. ET as the Terps host George Mason.
Last season, the Patriots finished 11-7 overall and 4th place in the Atlantic 10 under fifth year head coach Jessy Morgan. George Mason also returns their top four scorers from 2018, including senior Chachi Kelehan, who is currently fourth all-time in goals for the Patriots.
The Terrapins’ opening schedule follows with a road matchup against the Florida Gators next Thursday. Maryland will then have nine days between games, time that will allow the team to grow.
“We’re going to spend a couple more days down in Florida, in the warm weather,” Reese said, “I think we’ll need the time to work on things, so I think it’s a blessing at this time of the season to have these breaks.”
Here is a breakdown of how each position looks heading into the season:
Maryland suffers its biggest loss from last season in the attack position, as the program’s all-time leading scorer, Megan Whittle, graduated last spring. The attack in 2019 will be led by senior Caroline Steele and junior Kali Hartshorn, who finished last season with 59 and 38 goals, respectively.
“I think we’re meshing really well, everyone’s getting along, which I think is the biggest thing,” Steele said this week. “[The freshmen] are all doing so well with integrating with our team. As upperclassmen, we’re trying to boost their confidence, as this is a big, new competition.”
Julia Hoffman and Madison Rielly, who ranked as the 14th and 21st-best recruits in the class of 2018, respectively, are attackers who will certainly have a chance to impact the offense early.
The Terrapin midfield in 2019 will be captained by Jen Giles, and is a position with a lot of formidable pieces. The 2018 recruiting class featured six midfielders, and graduate transfer Erica Evans will finally get to see the field in 2019. The three-time MAAC Midfielder of the Year and Canisius all-time leading goal scorer suffered a torn ACL in October of 2017, and will play her first official game in over a year on Saturday.
“It’s going to be new in a sense at this level,” Evans said of her return. 2018 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Grace Griffin added that Evans is “such an amazing player. She’s left handed as well so we’ve had a lot of fun working on that left side of the cage ... it’s been a lot of fun playing with her offensively and defensively.”
With the key pieces set, how the Terrapins mesh their experience and youth will be a key factor in this season’s quest for success.
Maryland’s defense is easily the strongest part of the squad in 2019. The back line returns four players who played in all 22 games in 2018, including Julia Braig, Meghan Doherty, Lizzie Colson and Shelby Mercer.
“Defensively I want to be better than where we were last year,” Reese said, “We were young last year. This year we have a lot more experience back there and I expect us to be better defensively.”
In 2018, the Terrapins gave up more goals than the 2017 national championship run, which included one more game played. An opponent shot percentage increase of almost 3 percent shows there is room for improvement in 2019, but the experience gained last season should be able to boost the Terrapins to the next level.
Senior Megan Taylor continues her duties in goal for Maryland in 2019. The three-time Big Ten Goaltender of the Year and 2017 IWLCA National Goaltender of the Year played in all 22 of the Terrapins’ games last season, and finished with a 9.94 goals-against average. However, save percentage was down to 47.7 percent last year after she stopped 53.5 percent of shots in 2017
Sophomore Madison Hine and Freshman Maddie McSally will provide support for Taylor when needed. Last season, Hine played just under 20 minutes and allowed five goals. The 2019 season will also provide a chance for the program to also prepare for a new starting goaltender next season.
This opening weekend is a big step for the Terrapins because the team simply needs to “play someone other than ourselves,” said Reese, “[The team] as a whole are looking forward to what we need to work on and where we need to go from here.”