With just over three minutes left in overtime against Johns Hopkins, Maryland women’s lacrosse attacker Hannah Leubecker took possession at the top of the free-position area and drove towards the net.
Cutting to her right, she shot bottom-left across her body, sneaking the ball past goalkeeper Kathleen Garvey to call game with 3:08 on the clock.
In a contest marred by inconsistent play, the No. 8 Terps found a way to grind out the victory over the Blue Jays, 9-8, after a 12-day layoff early in its season. Maryland continued its success against Johns Hopkins by avoiding this loss, now leading the all-time series, 19-0.
“We need to learn how to compete under pressure and with such a young group, learning to compete under pressure is something that comes with experience,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “For Hannah Leubecker to take that shot at the end of the game, she competed under pressure. She wasn’t afraid to just go for it and she went for it and we were able to come away with the victory.”
Friday’s matchup marked the first time that Maryland had played at Homewood Field in 656 days, when it captured the 2019 National Championship. But this year’s team is a far cry from that dominant squad, as was the 2020 team in the shortened season, with head coach Cathy Reese’s squad going through growing pains.
The high energy levels and defensive intensity were apparent from the start of the match, as it took 4:28 into the match to find the first strike, coming from fifth-year senior attacker Brindi Griffin.
Maryland started to stray away from its good habits soon after, as Catie May picked up a yellow card that helped fuel a Hopkins attack, which tied the game just over two minutes later.
After the Blue Jays climbed to a 2-1 lead, it was a tic-tac-toe play from the Terps that resulted in a Hannah Leubecker goal, assisted by May to tie things up with 17:41 left in the half. The Terps entered Friday’s matchup ranking last in the Big Ten in assists, averaging just 2.33 per game. May and Leubecker went on to help reclaim a Maryland lead by the 14:46 mark, as a sharp free-position goal by the latter bumped the Terps’ advantage to 4-2.
Johns Hopkins wasn’t phased by Maryland’s advance though, closing the half with a run of three goals, including a last-second attempt from Mackenzie Heldberg in the final second of the half as the Terrapin defense was sleeping.
The Blue Jays, who had never defeated Maryland in the 18-game series history, carried a 5-4 advantage into the locker room thanks to seven saves by Kathleen Garvey.
Just 41 seconds into the second half, it was sisters Catie and Libby May combining, with the latter scoring a game-tying goal from her knee to even things up out of the break.
Maryland, which ranked third in the Big Ten with just 14.67 turnovers per game coming into this one, struggled to build consistency in its attack, turning the ball over four times in the second half before Shaylan Ahearn managed to break through for the Terps, giving them a 6-5 lead with 18:47 left in the game.
“I think that’s just confidence with the ball and confidence when carrying the ball up the field,” senior Lizzie Colson said. “We just need to work a little bit harder for each other when we’re carrying it up the field and recognizing when our [midfielders] and when goalies need help and cutting back to the ball, and just taking care of it for 70 yards to get it over to the attacking end to give them an opportunity to do something.”
Anger from the Johns Hopkins sideline about a no-call resulted in a green card, giving Maryland momentum. But another poor turnover on the offensive end allowed Hopkins to escape the tough position and pressure the Terps.
Up by just one goal at 7-6, Hannah Warther answered the call with 10:57 remaining on the team’s next free-position chance, starting to tally success in an area the Terps had converted at just 48.3% coming into this contest.
“We’re obviously looking to, like Cathy says, just put your foot down and pull away,” Leubecker said. “And free-position shots are a great opportunity to do that because they come off of fouls. it’s a really crucial part of the game to be able to capitalize on.”
Two Johns Hopkins’ goals with just over six minutes remaining tied the game up at eight all, however. After losing the draw control, Maryland was able to force a Blue Jay turnover and avoid immediately surrendering its lead, but a shot clock violation gave away a golden chance to take control.
With less than a minute and a half remaining, Maryland obtained possession and the shock clock turned off. Reese called timeout with 29.9 seconds remaining and a chance to win the game, but a pass that tried to reach a streaking Libby May fell short and forced overtime, the team’s first since March 9, 2019.
Johns Hopkins had a golden chance to claim victory with 4:05 remaining in the extra period, but a free-position shot went just over the crossbar and turned the ball over to the Terrapins with no shot clock. On the other end, Maryland retained possession off of a miss by Ahearn, which Leubecker slotted home less than 30 seconds later to claim victory.
“We’re young in a lot of areas, and that’s not an excuse, but people feel like they’re living up to a lot,” Reese said. “We come in and people want to be able to just kind of keep going at that level, but that team was real heavy in seniors and we’ve got to build right, we’ve got to grow and so just reminding us that we’ve got to focus on the process [is key].”
Three things to know
1. Maryland gave away too many woman-up chances. Entering Friday’s game, Maryland has just three yellow cards on the season, but doubled that mark with three yellow cards in the first half. In all, the Terps gave up four woman-up opportunities to John Hopkins, hurting themselves as they tried to find consistency.
2. The Terps were able to dominate on the draw. Led by senior Lizzie Colson, the Terps were able to really grind out extra opportunities thanks to a 13-6 advantage in the draw control circle. Even outside of the circle, Maryland proved to be no match for the Blue Jays when battling for groundballs, winning those loose chances, 15-10.
3. Johns Hopkins survived by its defense. Blue Jay goalkeeper Kathleen Garvey tallied 11 saves in this matchup as Johns Hopkins held Maryland to just nine goals on the afternoon. Coming into this matchup, the Terps ranked third in the Big Ten with 14 goals per game, while the Blue Jays allowed 13.6 per contest.
“We just need to take a deep breath and reset,” Reese said. “I think what happens is something doesn’t go well...and then you start to get frustrated with yourself because you know what you’re capable of and you don’t do it. And I think that’s the challenge of being a championship-level athlete is that you can play through those things where you start to get in your own head and maybe more consumed with what you’re doing, rather than how you can help the team.”