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Reflecting on a peculiar season for the Maryland women’s lacrosse team

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The Terps struggled against tough competition early and didn’t get the chance to continue their growth.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

The first week of Zoom classes have commenced for University of Maryland students, and much like the rest of the world, they will have to adjust further to the drastically different world we live in today.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left all universities around the country scrambling, cancelling all face-to-face interactions on campus and abruptly ending many sports teams’ seasons — like the Maryland women’s lacrosse team.

Head coach Cathy Reese had built up a reputation in College Park of utter domination, having won five national championships and compiling an astounding 86-game home win streak dating back to 2012.

The Terps went through some serious changes at each position heading into the 2020 season and clearly dealt with growing pains early in the season. Following a 19-6 victory in its season opener against George Mason, Maryland dropped three consecutive games against nationally ranked opponents Florida, North Carolina and Syracuse.

The crushing overtime loss to Florida stifled the Terps’ unbreakable home win streak, while a blowout defeat on the road against the Tar Heels handed the Terps several low lights, such as the largest margin of defeat with Reese at the helm and the first time losing consecutive games in her tenure.

These kinks in Maryland’s armor placed the team at an alarming 1-3 and an unfamiliar No. 15 ranking in the Inside Lacrosse polls heading into a potential bounce-back contest against Navy on their home field.

The mentality of the team did not change as the struggles continued to mount and Reese credited the team’s leadership for focusing on the components they could control.

“You can reevaluate your game film and look and say, ‘Ok, that was us,’” Reese said. “When our team would start watching and diving into our own play and focusing on Maryland lacrosse, we were able to make some adjustments and see some improvement every day.”

After posting a 13-save game in her first full 60 minutes of play in the close loss to Syracuse on Feb. 29, sophomore goaltender Maddie McSally essentially locked down the starting position with another solid outing against the Midshipmen.

She further staked her claim with a career showing against Hofstra later that week, posting a career-high 16 saves — albeit struggling a bit towards the end of the game. McSally, like so many other young Terps, looked ready to make their marks on the program in 2020.

“We just needed to gain some experience and some structure,” Reese said. “Players were starting to be comfortable with their teammates around them and that was really spring-boarding us as the season went on.”

One of those key players who provided the team structure down the line was freshman Emma Schettig. The first-year defender was named a Second Team All-American after compiling a team-leading 17 ground balls and nine caused turnovers — tied with her senior mentor Meghan Doherty for the top mark on the team.

The offensive side of the ball was led by seniors Brindi Griffin and Kali Hartshorn, but it is unclear whether their production will College Park next season with the NCAA granting spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility.

Junior Hannah Warther and freshman Libby May made some noise on the offensive end, providing the Terps with offensive options if the seniors do decide to depart — as originally planned before the national pandemic.

The team was just starting to sort out the early-season inconsistencies before its Big Ten opener against Rutgers was postponed. The season was subsequently cancelled and seniors were forced to miss their final coronation, as much of the world began to deal with a new way of life with the coronavirus making landfall in the United States.

Although the recent NCAA motion to grant spring athletes another year of eligibility could change that, it has left some fans and athletes alike imagining ‘what if?’

Doherty took to Twitter on St. Patrick’s Day to express how lucky she was to be a part of the Maryland women’s lacrosse family.

The five-year Maryland veteran officially announced on April Fool’s Day that she would not be returning for her sixth season — it was not a joke, however, as Doherty ended her career on her own terms and showed her appreciation to the program.

“This program is nothing short of what every little girl grows up to wanting to be a part of and I am damn proud to be apart of it,” Doherty said in a statement.

In terms of collegiate spring sports, the hope is that the Maryland women’s lacrosse seniors and all the spring sports seniors across the country will be able to end their collegiate careers on their own terms.

However, if this is truly it for the seniors at Maryland, they have certainly stamped their name into the history books with both their skills and accolades on the field — including two national championships — and their spontaneity off of it.

“[I’m] obviously sad the way their season ended, but proud of the people that they are, the women that they are and the legacy that they left,” Reese said. “I just know that the next chapter in their life they’re going to crush the same way they did their four years here.”