clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

No. 4 Maryland women’s lacrosse finds itself in unfamiliar territory for rivalry matchup vs No. 1 North Carolina

The Terps are in jeopardy of losing two consecutive games for the first time under head coach Cathy Reese.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Shock and awe occurred in College Park on Feb. 15, as the then-No. 14 Florida Gators did something no other team could do in 86 tries: beat the then-top ranked Maryland women’s lacrosse in its own backyard.

Head coach Cathy Reese and her team hadn’t lost a home game since Mar. 10, 2012, when they lost by one goal to the Syracuse Orange.

A year highlighted by the emergence of memes, President Barack Obama’s re-election and the supposed “end of the world” conspiracy on Dec. 21, was the last time Maryland lost at home.

Since the world didn’t end such as the Mayans predicted, the Terps began to take the remainder of the decade by storm.

In the years since under Reese, the Terps forgot how to lose at times, failing to clinch a Final Four spot just once and losing a combined eight games. The only thorn in the team’s side over the past decade, however, has been Jenny Levy’s North Carolina Tar Heels.

“You love the opportunity to compete against the highest level teams out there,” Reese said when asked about how her team will respond to playing a team of North Carolina’s caliber. “It’s not about the team we’re playing, it’s about us and us mentally being ready for a challenge.”

Year after year, the Tar Heels have pushed the Terps to their breaking point. The past nine regular season meetings have been decided by three goals or less, with the Terps defeating North Carolina in double overtime last season on a game-winning goal from Caroline Steele.

On the other hand, postseason meetings have swung in the opposite direction, as the Tar Heels have edged the Terps two-out-of-three times in national championship games. All three of such meetings have come since Reese began her seventh season in College Park back in 2013.

The Terps own the all-time series 25-14, but this year more so than previous ones leaves the them vulnerable. For the first time with Reese at the helm, Maryland is in danger of dropping consecutive games.

The stunning home loss to Florida does enough in presenting more questions than answers for the Terps, but the still developing chemistry on all facets due to the many new faces in the starting lineup could present an uphill battle for the No. 4 Terps.

Junior defender Laurie Bracey will appear against the Tar Heels for the first time in her career Saturday. The former top recruit has started both games for the Terps thus far and has been one of the leaders on a defense that ceded eight goals to junior midfielder Shannon Kavanagh on Saturday.

“It’s never good to have expectations [for North Carolina],” Bracey said. “It’s just good to go into things positive … We love a good rivalry and I think it’ll just be a good game.”

Junior midfielder Hannah Warther logged minimal game time in last year’s double-overtime thriller, but still contributed nicely when she found the back of the net early in the second half. With more of a pivotal role on the offense this time around, Warther is prepared for the opportunity to travel to Chapel Hill.

“I’m just really excited to have the opportunity to play against a great team,” Warther said.

The renewal of the rivalry since Maryland’s departure from the ACC has favored the Terps. Maryland is 5-2 against North Carolina since joining the Big Ten at the start of the 2015 season.

Although the rivalry initially lost some substance as a result of Maryland jumping ship to a different conference, the games in recent years have been nothing short of the finest collegiate women’s lacrosse has to offer and have reignited the rivalry despite the Terps’ conference change.

In the upcoming version of the contest, a proficient Tar Heel offense will host a Terp defense that had trouble containing the relentless Kavanagh-led Florida offense last week. And the Terp defense could have its hands full once again against the attacker duo of senior Katie Hoeg and junior Jamie Ortega.

Hoeg holds the school record for assists and continues to build her legacy this season with 148 career dimes. Ortega — who is just starting her junior season — is coming off a First-Team All-American selection in 2019 and already has supplied 14 goals.

While the star combo will be something to monitor on the scouting report, Reese made sure to emphasize the importance of playing North Carolina and focusing on improving as a team rather than worrying about stopping their stars.

“We have to change gears at this point in the season being where we are,” Reese said. “It’s so early [in the season] and we’ve got to get better ourselves. It needs to be us being better at what we do.”