After falling behind 5-1 early, the No. 7 Maryland women’s lacrosse team attempted to turn the tides against an offensive barnburner orchestrated by the high octane offense of the No. 3 Northwestern Wildcats.
Sophomore attacker Hannah Leubecker was able to cut the score to 7-5, but Northwestern was quick to respond to Maryland’s comeback efforts.
Off of the draw control, Northwestern bolted down the field and set up a quick goal for attacker Leah Holmes. Just over a minute later, the Terrapins ceded the ninth goal. Northwestern standout attacker Izzy Scane then converted goal number ten seconds later.
It was a frequent occurrence in Saturday afternoon’s highly anticipated matchup, with Northwestern constantly answering in spurts whenever the Terps tried to climb back into the game. The Wildcat offense flexed its guns against a terrific Maryland defense, using a plethora of scoring bunches to dominate the Terps, 25-12.
“We didn’t really stick to our game plan... defensively and Northwestern is a team that has so much power on the offensive side that they can capitalize on it,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “We’ve got to make some changes and make sure that we can come out and stick to our game plan when we step on the field Monday.”
Maryland had won four of the last five meetings against Northwestern, with the most recent showdown being in the national semifinal back in 2019, where attacker Brindi Griffin broke out for a game-high six goals.
Decked out in all black in a foggy game at Martin Stadium, Griffin picked up right where she left off against the Wildcats.
A goal two and a half minutes in by the home team was quickly answered by the fifth year captain, as Griffin scored the equalizing goal as attacker Catie May wrapped around the back of the net before dumping it off for the assist.
The prolific Northwestern offense began to break out after the goal by Griffin. In just over three minutes, a 1-1 tie became 5-1 thanks to two goals from Scane, forcing the Terps to use its first timeout.
As the fog began to clear up, Maryland emerged from the shadows and began to pick up the pieces on both ends.
Hannah Warther answered immediately out of the timeout with an aggressive drive, followed by an unassisted goal from Catie May to shrink the deficit to two. The goal by May was off of a poised defensive stand by the Terrapins, in which defender Lizzie Colson forced the turnover.
The momentum swing continued as goalie Emily Sterling got a taste of the action, denying attacker Lauren Gilbert — who was 14-16 in free position chances prior to today’s match — of her 15th such goal on the season. The save segued into a second goal by May, wrapping around the back of the net for a wide-open goal, making it 5-4.
The Wildcats didn’t let Maryland cut too much into its lead, however, as two more goals pushed the Terps’ deficit back to three. But once again, the Terps were able to make a quick response.
Leubecker lined up for the free position opportunity with 13:37 remaining in the first half. After her shot ricocheted off the crossbar, the sophomore stayed in the possession, cutting up the middle for the score.
Maryland’s offense looked to make this a contested race to ten, but the Wildcats began to turn up the heat on Colson and the defense. The Wildcats scored in bunches, with goals eight, nine and ten coming within three minutes of one another.
Suddenly, Maryland was looking at a 10-5 deficit with 10:34 left and the bleeding wouldn’t stop. The Terps couldn’t contain Scane, ceding seven first half goals to the nation’s leading scorer.
Maryland briefly stifled the Northwestern momentum as Grace Griffin evaded a triple team in the middle for the low goal, but more offense from the Wildcats pushed the Terp deficit to six heading into the halftime intermission.
It took a while, but the first goal of the second half was netted at the 24:17 mark by Warther off of the free position with just 19 seconds remaining on the shot clock. In “blink and you’ll miss it” fashion, Northwestern answered 15 seconds later, kicking off another bundle of scores.
Maryland struggled to contain the Wildcats’ full-throttle offense after a promising standoff to start the half. Scane scored her 50th goal of the season, which was followed by a free position score by Gilbert, doubling Maryland’s score at the 22:24 minute mark.
May was able to offer some hope the next time down, with Maryland’s ninth goal coming off of a quick transition score, but per typical in today’s match, Northwestern was able to respond as fast as a strike of lightning, extending their lead back to eight.
More scoring from the Wildcats continued into the middle portion of the second half, as Maryland lumbered to a nearly seven-minute drought before Leubecker scored goal No. 30 on the season.
Per typical, Northwestern immediately responded 25 seconds later via a man-up goal from Holmes. A running clock commenced as Maryland’s defense continued to falter to the onslaught by the Wildcats, finishing off a dismal afternoon on a 5-2 scoring drought.
“This was no different than any other Maryland-Northwestern high scoring game, we were just on the bottom end of it,” Reese said.
Three things to know
1. Offense prevailed over defense. The obvious point to make in this one is that Northwestern’s offense outperformed Maryland’s defense. Both sides had been dominant in their respective strengths, but Northwestern’s 46 shots overwhelmed the Terrapins. It was a brutal beatdown as the Terps couldn’t slow down the Wildcats. Draw controls were a key issue in this one. Heading into half, Maryland actually held the advantage, but a 14-3 second half disparity was too lopsided for the Terps to hunker down defensively with the onslaught by Northwestern continuing without intermission.
“We did execute on the offense when we had a chance, but it’s tough with how Northwestern kind of dominated the draw,” Brindi Griffin said.
2. The Wildcats were able to neutralize Hannah Leubecker. It was only a matter of time before some team caught on to the phenom in College Park. Leubecker has been the go-to scorer for the Terrapins this year, with the second year player up to 28 goals in six games. The first half alone showed that this matchup would be no cakewalk for her, as the Wildcats held Leubecker to just one goal on three shots. The containment continued into the latter half as she finished just 2 for 7 and only had just three of those shots be on goal.
3. Unforced turnovers were the Terrapins downfall. Maryland didn’t have to be perfect to compete in this one, but self-inflicted wounds against such a powerful program was going to be catastrophic today. That’s exactly what happened. Although the two teams had the same amount of turnovers with 11, Northwestern only forced three. A 10-14 showing in clears may have had something to do with that, but it appeared that the jitters of the inter-conference rivalry game — the first of which for a majority of Maryland’s roster — got the best of them.
“We had a couple turnovers in key points in the game, which hurt us,” Reese said. “We need to take advantage of every possession that we have.”