No. 10 Maryland women’s lacrosse looked dead in the water in the middle of the first half on Sunday, down three goals at one point thanks to a frightening 17:21 scoring drought against No. 17 Michigan.
However, the Terps’ fate shifted dramatically in the final 10 minutes before the halftime break. And with 22 seconds remaining in the half, senior Hannah Warther put the exclamation point on the offensive barn burner.
Moving to her right — whether it be the rainy conditions or her jukes — Warther dropped her defender to the turf, giving the senior midfielder an opening for the score. Michigan attempted to close in on the attacking Warther, but her windup was already on the downswing as her punishing score pushed Maryland’s lead to three, capping off a game-altering 7-1 run to end the half.
Maryland carried that momentum into the final frame to pull out a 12-9 victory Sunday afternoon, sweeping the season series against Michigan. The No. 10-ranked Terps are now 2-1 on the season after a disappointing loss to Penn State in the season opener last weekend.
“This is a really young group and when faced with a challenge, they find a way to get it done,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “That’s something I’m really proud of at this point and I’m looking forward to having the next week to regroup, reset, and prepare for our next opponent.”
It was a rainy afternoon at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park, and the Wolverines seized the advantage just 33 seconds in off of a goal from Maggie Kane. But the Terps made a quick response, with Brindi Griffin getting her second consecutive opening goal for Maryland.
A stalemate ensued, with both teams hunkering down on defense, especially Michigan, who forced Maryland to just three shots in the first half of the first half.
As for Maryland’s defense, Lizzie Colson played tremendous in front of the net following the quick score from the opposition. The captain had a pair of ground balls and caused turnovers in the first 10 minutes of the match before a timeout by Michigan looked to salvage some offense in this defensive-minded match thus far.
“We were really good at bringing each other up and just focusing on the next play and taking it one step at a time,” Colson said.
Blame the rain or call it defense at its finest, but eight combined turnovers led to a 1-1 deadlock until the scoreless drought was ended by Wolverine attacker Caroline Davis with 19:17 on the clock.
Another scoreless drought followed a third goal ceded by Maryland at the 17:30 mark, but the Terps couldn’t keep the Michigan offense away, even with the stellar play from Warther on the defensive end.
A Michigan goal from Caitlin Muir made it 4-1, prolonging Maryland’s abysmal scoring outage to 16 minutes. But midfielder Grace Griffin was able to finally put an end to the drought with 9:50 left in the half.
Griffin followed up her drought-breaking score with a free-position goal a minute later, and then a third goal in just over two minutes was roped in by the star of Friday’s game, attacker Hannah Leubecker.
Warther kept the ball rolling, as her airborne jump shot tied the game at 5-5 following a Michigan score. Leubecker followed that up with a free-position goal, her ninth overall score of the weekend.
Despite a massive scoring outage midway through the half, two more goals from Maryland capped off the major turnaround as the home team found itself holding an 8-5 lead heading into the break.
Michigan once again came out fast from the start, with attacker Kaitlyn Mead cutting the Wolverines’s deficit to two, but Griffin was the one to answer, firing in a free position goal to push the lead back up to three.
Another power outage on offense commenced for the Terps, with 9:36 and two Michigan goals passing by before Griffin continued her strong outing with her fourth goal of the afternoon.
The scoring came in bunches for Maryland, as Victoria Hensh and Leubecker scored within 40 seconds of one another to expand the lead to four with a little over 15 minutes remaining.
Kane scored for Michigan at the 12:35 mark to answer the mini-burst from the Terps, but that goal would be the last score of the game as the Terps emerged victorious in a gritty afternoon showdown in the rain, 12-9.
“It’s not an excuse. It’s not just raining on Maryland, it’s raining on Michigan,” Reese said. “Even with those challenges, these guys found a way to work for each other and create opportunities and put enough away to come away with the victory.”
Three things to know
1. Lizzie Colson and Hannah Warther kept the Terps afloat in the first half. A nightmarish scoring drought by Maryland in the first half was countered by impressive defense. Colson shut down the Wolverine attack as she stuffed the stat sheet, collecting a pair of ground balls, forced turnovers and draw controls. Her compadre Warther wasn’t as impactful on the box score (two ground balls and a caused turnover in the first half), but her defense shutting down the outside lanes was critical to Maryland staying in the game amid the power outage on offense.
Colson finished the afternoon with two ground balls, three caused turnovers and four draw controls, while Warther switched her focus to the offensive end, scoring twice, and finished with the same stat line as she finished with in the first half.
2. Variability is the greatest ability. Each game the Terps have played this season has seen a different weapon emerge as a focal point. In the season opener, Libby May shined in her first Big Ten action with a team-high six points on four goals. Friday against Michigan was the breakout match for Leubecker, who scored a career-high seven goals. Then, on Sunday, it was the veteran Grace Griffin, who led the team with four goals and picked up a career-high five ground balls.
“I think that’s one of our strengths on offense that we can attack at so many different points,” Griffin said. “Everyone can have a day and we all help each other out.”
3. Maryland made a statement this weekend. The loss to Penn State last Sunday was a stinger for a Terps team looking to rewrite its lost 2020 season. Losing under Cathy Reese is not common in College Park, so dropping to 0-1 for the first time under the five-time national champion was a frustrating milestone.
If this weekend proved anything, it’s to never count out the Terps. Sunday’s scoring revival shows just how dangerous Maryland can be on both ends, and despite the blip in the road against Penn State, the Terps look to be right back on track.
“We’re definitely growing, we’re definitely learning, but that’s our goal and that’s going to be our goal moving forward,” Reese said. “This whole season is just to focus on the journey and to get a little bit better everyday.”