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No. 9 Maryland women’s lacrosse vs. No. 14 Penn State preview: Part 2

The Terps will look to avenge its season opening loss to the Nittany Lions.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

The No. 9 Maryland women’s lacrosse team staved off a feisty comeback effort from No. 23 Rutgers on Thursday, winning in narrow fashion by just two goals after once leading by five towards the end of the first half.

The Terps will retool ahead of a much anticipated road rematch against No. 14 Penn State. Maryland started off its season on Feb. 21 with a 15-13 loss to the Nittany Lions.

Sunday’s matchup is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and will be streamed on BTN Plus.

What happened last time

Penn State fed off of many stretch runs in the first half that couldn’t be overcame, as the finishing touches on the upset over then-No. 7 Maryland were executed by midfielder Olivia Dirks — who had seven goals on the day.

Maryland gave up four straight goals to end the first half, putting them in an 8-4 hole. But out of the intermission, a trio of Terrapin goals in the first five minutes made it just a one score game.

The Terps didn’t lead after opening the match up 1-0, but attacker Libby May made it close with 10 minutes remaining, tying it up at 11 with her third and fourth goals of the match, a team-high.

The defense couldn’t hold off Penn State’s offense down the stretch, however, leading to a 13-15 loss. Midfielder Shaylan Ahearn was outstanding on the draw as she corralled nine, while defender Lizzie Colson caused four turnovers in her return to the field.

What’s happened since

Maryland’s offense has had its fair share of difficulties this season, but attacker Hannah Leubecker has been able to pick up the slack, leading to a record-breaking start to her sophomore campaign.

Aside from Leubecker doing it all on offense, the Terrapin defense has been its backbone this year. Colson has been as advertised for the Terps, while goalkeeper Emily Sterling has filled in admirably in between the pipes.

Since the loss to Penn State, Maryland has lost just twice — both to Northwestern. Prior to those two losses, the Terps rattled off five consecutive victories, including four of which where the defense held the opposition to less than ten goals.

For Penn State, aside from an overtime victory against Michigan, they have dropped six of their last seven since defeating Maryland. Two losses to Northwestern were followed by a split series against the Wolverines. They have since lost twice to Ohio State and once to Johns Hopkins by a combined eight goals.

Three things to watch

1. Will the Terps get their revenge? The Terrapins were just out of sorts against Penn State at the beginning of the season. The bigger picture is that Maryland played from behind for a majority of the game because of too many scoring droughts. But looking closer, they were the aggressor for most of the matchup. The Terps offense shot ten more shots than Penn State and also got to the free position a whopping 14 times compared to Penn State’s one. Maryland also dominated on the draw control, toppling the statistic, 23-6. Offensive opportunities weren’t the problem and shouldn’t be in the rematch, but the Terps will have to make more with their chances in the Nittany Lion zone to avenge their previous defeat.

2. How will Maryland recover from its turnover woes. Against Rutgers on Thursday, Maryland gave the ball up 17 times, including seven of those occurrences being unforced. Head coach Cathy Reese’s squad averages 14.44 a game, so Thursday’s number is a bit of a red flag by Maryland’s standards. Penn State is even better in terms of season average (14), so if Maryland were to falter once again with its handling of the ball, they could find a tough time overcoming that against a more poised opponent. In their last meeting, Penn State stayed the course with its average on the year with 14, while Maryland found themselves in rough waters with 16.

3. How will the Terps counter Taylor Suplee? The Big Ten leader in saves per game (10.22) has been an absolute menace in between the pipes for Penn State this season. The junior goalkeeper had more saves than goals allowed against the Terrapins, making spectacular saves throughout the match and ultimately curbing any chance of Maryland building momentum in the match. The huge disparity in draw controls and free position shots, yet the final score leaning in favor of the Nittany Lions, is a testament to Suplee’s major impact on the game. Maryland will have to implement a much more unpredictable approach against Suplee this time around. No matter how many shots they take, if the Terps can’t get Suplee out of rhythm, those opportunities will go to waste against the brick wall for the Nittany Lions.