Maryland women’s lacrosse is on a quest for a 14th national championship, which would extend its lead over the rest of the country and double Northwestern’s second-highest total of seven titles.
In order to do that, though, the No. 1-seed Terrapins will have to reset and regroup after a relatively up-and-down last month of the season. Challenging comebacks against Georgetown and Stony Brook, a grinding victory against Northwestern in the regular season and the lone loss to the Wildcats in the Big Ten championship game have made this a somewhat turbulent time. But the keys to victory are fairly straightforward.
1. Get into an offensive flow
One key for Maryland to be successful is its ability to find a good flow on the offensive end. The team ranks seventh in the nation in scoring offense, with an average of 15.95 goals per game, but there is always room to improve.
In the quarterfinals, the Terrapins will face Denver, which ranks as the best scoring defense in the nation, giving up just 6.79 goals per game. The Pioneers play a tough zone defense, similar to Stony Brook, so ball movement will be essential to success.
“We’re focusing on moving the ball and working as a unit offensively,” sophomore midfielder Grace Griffin said Tuesday. “Making sure that we’re looking for the right feed, right look. Even if maybe we get a turnover, the first looking isn’t there, that we’re looking for the second look and really working the defense and finding those gaps.”
Finding passing lanes and moving the ball will combat zone pressure, but going forward it could also raise the team shooting percentage. Coach Cathy Reese and her players have consistently mentioned hitting the mark of 50 percent shooting every game, but the team sits at 46.4 percent on the season.
2. Control the draw
The Terrapins can’t get going on offense if they don’t win draw controls, but this has become a recent struggle. Maryland has controlled 57.3 percent of its draws this season, but the last two matchups against Northwestern and Stony Brook have been difficult.
The Wildcats beat Maryland 19-10 in the draw circle, while Stony Brook managed a 14-13 advantage despite the scoreline. Kali Hartshorn, who leads the team with 124 draw controls this season, was held winless in the circle against the Seawolves. Maryland will need to find ways to battle in and around the starting circle to create an advantage and alleviate pressure on the defense.
“We didn’t get a draw for a while in the beginning,” Reese said after Maryland’s win over Stony Brook. “It just felt like sometimes the ball didn’t bounce our way and unfortunately that sometimes happens.”
Changing things up and putting Meghan Siverson and Lizzie Colson on the draw consistently gave the team new light, which they can build on moving forward. “Once we made those changes,” Reese said, “we were able to come up with more possessions, and possessions equal opportunities to score.”
3. Start faster
Success in the draw circle and on offense factor into success, but getting these little wins early on will play a huge role in Maryland reaching its true potential.
Against Northwestern, the Terrapins went down 2-0 quickly, and that lead grew to 5-2 before an eventual 10-4 halftime score. Stony Brook coach Joe Spallina wanted to make Maryland feel deja vu, and his team won the first five draws and jumped out to a 4-0 lead on the Terps.
Reversing the trend will be key moving forward because defending a lead is much easier than fighting from behind, and the team will want to create momentum early on. Reese has preached not looking to far backward or too far forward, and the team has been absorbing that message.
“We never worry about the end result of a game,” junior attacker Brindi Griffin said Tuesday. “Right now, we’re only focused on Denver, the first draw, going out and winning that. Getting the first draw and going down and scoring.”