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No. 1 Maryland women’s lacrosse vs George Mason preview

The Terps aim to start their post-championship season strong with a victory against George Mason.

Kali Hartshorn, Maryland women’s lacrosse Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

No. 1 Maryland women’s lacrosse will kick off its 2020 campaign on the road against George Mason Saturday.

The Terps opened last season against the Patriots, winning 16-5. Senior attacker Kali Hartshorn recorded a hat trick in last year’s meeting and is excited to finally get the season going.

“Whatever we worked on these past three weeks at practice, we want to incorporate that into the game,” Hartshorn said. “And we just want to get better from there into the next game.”

Head coach Cathy Reese is entering her 14th season at Maryland as a defending champion and is itching to ditch the practice field for the road showdown in Fairfax, Virgina.

“I’m looking forward to playing someone other than ourselves,” Reese said. “Just ready to see how we adapt to things that are thrown at us.”

Saturday’s game is scheduled to start at noon ET and can be watched on ESPN+.

George Mason

2019 record: 11-7, 7-2 Atlantic 10

Head coach Jessy Morgan is in her sixth season as head coach for the Patriots and will hope to have better results in the postseason than last year. Despite landing the 2-seed in its conference tournament, George Mason was walloped in the semifinals against the 3-seeded Richmond Spiders, 19-4. The former University of Virginia All-American will look to guide her team further this season.

Players to know

Sophomore attacker Deanna Balsama (No. 27) couldn’t have had a better freshman season. Balsama led the Patriots in goals scored (49), assists (22) and total points (71) en route to earning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year honors as well as landing on the All-Conference Second Team. Now with a year of collegiate lacrosse under her belt, Balsama will be equipped with experience against the Terps this time around.

Junior midfielder Erin Donoghue (No. 24) will look to be a leader for George Mason this season after a solid sophomore year, in which she recorded 33 goals and led the team with 84 draw controls. She was awarded for her play last season with a spot on the All-Conference First Team and was named to the 2020 Preseason All-A-10 Team along with Balsama.

Senior goalkeeper Melissa Semkiw (No. 22) joined her aforementioned teammates on the Preseason All-A-10 Team and will head into her senior year with redemption on her mind. Semkiw regressed from her sophomore season, allowing 12.22 goals per game compared to 9.93 the year prior. With a career 26-15 record, Semkiw will look to end her collegiate career on a high note, starting Saturday against the Terps.

Three things to watch

1. Where will the offense come from? Losing just over half of their goal output from last season due to graduation and injury, the Terps will need familiar faces and new pieces to fill the offensive void. Seniors Brindi Griffin and Hartshorn — the two highest-scoring returning players — will lead the pack, while freshman additions Shaylan Ahearn and Hannah Leubecker should fit in with the team dynamic and contribute early on.

2. Who will impress between the pipes? With a lot of change on the offense, the defensive will face significant turnover as well with the loss of its difference maker in goal: Megan Taylor. It is unclear who will be the main goalkeeper for the Terps, but three candidates will look to compete for minutes. Sophomore Maddie McSally provided solid minutes in seven games last year, but junior Madison Hine and freshman Emily Sterling could enter the fray too.

3. How will the freshman perform in their first collegiate game? A lot of new faces will join the Terps in Virginia for the team’s season opener, but who will make an impact? Midfielders Ahearn and Emma Schettig, as well as attacker Hannah Leubecker, were nationally ranked in the top-10 and should slot into the lineup seamlessly. And another top recruit, defender Catherine Flaherty, will represent Maryland’s No. 1 recruiting class on the defensive end.

“They just work hard,” Griffin said. “That just makes everyone want to be better.”