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Previewing the 2021 season for No. 7 Maryland women’s lacrosse

The Terps will enter this season with high expectations after a lackluster 2020.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Like many college teams around the country, the COVID-19 pandemic hit Maryland women’s lacrosse hard.

“You feel like you just got hit by a truck,” head coach Cathy Reese said.

The Terps started the 2020 season at 1-3, a new low for head coach Cathy Reese during her illustrious tenure, but bounced back with solid victories against Navy and Hofstra to put the Terps back at .500 ahead of conference play.

But just as quickly as the Terrapins seemed to be turning its season around, the floor was swept out from underneath them as the coronavirus pandemic halted the season.

Now, with the coronavirus still lingering around, the Terps are slated for a conference-only schedule for the 2021 season. No. 7 Maryland will aim to build off of last year’s late season chemistry and return to its typical dominance in an otherwise unfamiliar looking season.

“They’re hungry, they’re excited, they’re loving that they have the opportunity to be with their teammates ... It’s been something that’s reassuring and allows these girls to get back to some sense of normalcy in these crazy times.”

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s to come for the Terps in 2021.

Key losses

It was an unceremonious farewell to a few impact seniors after the cancellation. Kali Hartshorn was one of Maryland’s lead women on the offense in the early part of the season, compiling 20 points on 10 goals and 10 assists. Hartshorn dominated on the draw control as well, pacing the team with an astounding 33 in six games.

Meg Doherty was the heart and soul of the Maryland defense, and her impact both on and off the court is a major loss. Doherty caused nine turnovers, tied for the team lead, and was also in the top three in ground balls. Doherty’s impact went past the stat sheet, however, and Maryland’s defense will undergo a huge shift in 2021.

A shocking departure was that of rising sophomore Emma Schettig, who transferred to Notre Dame over the summer. Schettig broke out for Maryland’s defense and seemed to be the perfect bridge between Doherty and the next generation of Terps. She earned Second Team All-American honors from Inside Lacrosse thanks to a team leading 17 ground balls, nine caused turnovers and 16 draw controls.

Returning players

Thanks to the NCAA allowing seniors from the COVID-shortened season to return for a fifth year, Maryland welcomed back top goal scorer and team captain Brindi Griffin. Griffin led Maryland in goals (15) last season despite a slow start. The final two games against Navy and Hofstra saw the senior produce back-to-back hat tricks with three and five goals, respectively. The decision to return was as easy as they come for Griffin.

“As soon as I found out that I did have the opportunity [to come back] I immediately said yes,” Griffin said. “I was so devastated that I didn’t get to finish out my season with my team, so I couldn’t be more excited to be back.”

Fellow captain Grace Griffin is also returning to College Park, who like her teammate Brindi, began to get things going after a slow start prior to the season’s cancellation. The 2021 Inside Lacrosse Preseason All-American was second on the team with 16 ground balls, including six against Hofstra, and eight caused turnovers.

Midfielder Hannah Warther is aiming to build off her torrid 2020. In just six games, Warther surpassed her career total in goals with 14, leading to a second place finish in points (16). The rising senior did everything for Maryland, recording 12 ground balls, 15 draw controls and forcing six turnovers.

Another breakout player from 2020 was goalkeeper Maddie McSally, who stepped into the starting role following a career performance against Syracuse. Despite the loss, McSally kept the Terps in the game with a then-career high of 13 saves. The final game before the postponement saw McSally top that mark with 16 saves, but even her stellar play down the stretch hasn’t secured a full-time starting role for 2021, as a fully healthy Emily Sterling looks to stake her claim in the rotation.

“We’re continuing to battle it out on the field everyday in practice,” Reese said. “We could be in a situation where we’re splitting halves or we could have a situation where one of them takes the reins and rolls with it.”

New additions

Although she is not quite a new addition to the team, the 2021 Terps will welcome back Lizzie Colson, a two-time All-Big Ten defender who was set to miss all of 2020 with a torn ACL. Having Colson back on the field will be a huge boost to not only a defense facing another year of major turnover, but also to the energy off the field.

“She’s just such a leader on the field and brings up everyone’s energy,” Grace Griffin said. “She goes so hard that is makes everyone else want to be better.”

Joining Grace Griffin on the midfield are Under Armour All-American freshmen Sophi Wrisk and Eloise Clevenger. Hailing from Catonsville, Maryland, Wrisk was the No. 16 ranked recruit by Inside Lacrosse. The three sport athlete compiled 147 points during her sophomore and junior seasons.

Clevenger was Inside Lacrosse’s No. 14 ranked recruit, choosing Maryland over UNC, Penn State and Johns Hopkins. Clevenger recorded 113 points over two complete seasons in high school.

Avery Jaffe is Maryland’s standout freshman on the attack. As a junior, she led the nationally-ranked Moorestown (N.J.) Quakers in goals and was named a three-time Under Armour All-American. Jaffe could be a spark plug on the offense for coach Reese this season.

Looking forward

Maryland was originally scheduled to kick off its season against Johns Hopkins on Feb. 14, however, COVID issues within the Johns Hopkins program resulted in postponement. Instead, the Terps will look towards Feb. 21 as the official start to its season against Big Ten foe Penn State.

“It feels like we’re counting down the days till Christmas,” Grace Griffin said.

After that, the Terps only have ten games scheduled. Two weekend series against Michigan and Ohio State will occur on Feb. 26 and 28 and Mar. 19 and 21 in College Park, before Maryland travels to Northwestern in a marquee matchup on Mar. 26 and 28.

From there, the Terps will play the home leg of a home-and-away series against Rutgers on Apr. 9. Sandwiched between the away game in that series (taking place on Apr. 18) is a road game against Penn State on Apr. 11, followed by a home game against Johns Hopkins on Apr. 16