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No. 9 Maryland women’s lacrosse falls to No. 14 Penn State, 16-9

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The Terps suffer a season sweep by the Nittany Lions and move to 6-4 on the season.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Entering desperation mode down nine goals late, No. 9 Maryland women’s lacrosse attacker Hannah Leubecker ran coast to coast to try and provide a spark for the Terrapin offense in a lackluster outing versus No. 14 Penn State.

She dumped it off to midfielder Darby Welsh, whose side wrister was denied by senior goalkeeper Lucy Lowe. It was the story all day, as the defense for the Nittany Lions suffocated Maryland’s shot attempts.

A collection of garbage time goals from the Terrapins made the final score a bit more appealing, but overall they were outmatched from start to finish, leading to a dominant 16-9 victory for the home team.

“Just disappointed in our effort today,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “We’re so far into the season and we’re lacking consistency. That’s not good enough for where we want to be as a program and where we want to be as a team this season.”

Penn State struck first in Happy Valley as Maryland struggled to break through the Nittany Lion defense on the other end in the early going.

Attacker Brindi Griffin set up fellow attacker Catie May for the breakthrough goal at the 25:28 mark, but despite taking three draw controls to Penn State’s zero in the opening minutes, the Terps failed to capitalize on its opportunities, eventually falling behind 3-1.

Holding onto the draw control advantage could only do so much as turnovers once again plagued the Terrapins. Four giveaways, three unforced, transitioned into nine shots from Penn State compared to Maryland’s three.

After a timeout to regroup, the Terps were able to finally gain possession in Penn State territory, but another turnover segued into a fifth goal for the Nittany Lions.

The shot disparity in the first 15 minutes was key, as the Nittany Lions ran down Maryland’s defense for 12 shots compared to the road team’s four. The Terps also only had two of those be on goal, whereas Penn State delivered eight.

A second goal from freshman midfielder Kristin O’Neill made it 6-1, including a massive 17-5 shot margin as Maryland’s scoring drought extended past 14 minutes of game time.

At the 8:48 mark, a free position opportunity by Griffin finally broke the extended drought for Maryland as they aimed to salvage a dismal first half. But it was Lowe — who earned her first start of the season on senior day — that continued to frustrate the Maryland attack as she maintained a .625 first half save percentage.

The Terps continued to look completely out of sorts against a strong Penn State defense, as the Nittany Lions tacked on two additional goals in the final minute of play to make it 9-3 heading into the half.

Major soul searching was needed heading into the second half of play, as the Terrapins faced its lowest scoring output in a first half all season.

Maryland came out aggressive from the start, but Lowe continued to turn away the Terps. Her two saves in the opening minutes of the half segued into another Nittany Lion score, increasing the Terps deficit to seven.

May responded on the other end with her signature behind the net play. She dropped defender Rachel Spilker before finding attacker Libby May for the team’s fourth goal.

The Terps couldn’t ride that momentous score from the May sisters, as Penn State cashed in once again, this time on the free position to take an 11-4 lead.

“We were getting the opportunities, but we just weren’t able to finish them all,” Griffin said. “I think we were only about 30% in shooting this game so I think that’s definitely something we’ll work on before our Hopkins game.”

Maryland was able to answer back via Leubecker’s first goal of the game, but Lowe came up clutch once again with her exceptional play in between the pipes, denying any chance of the Terps mounting a comeback.

Penn State continued to tally shot after shot against the Terrapin defense, with Maryland looking lost on both ends as the second half clock waned away. Penn State midfielder Mary Muldoon put the finishing touches on the blowout victory against the Terps, as the team’s 15th goal commenced a running clock against a typically imposing Maryland team.

Attacker Julia Hoffman converted on a free position opportunity to remove the running clock notation, but the deficit was too steep to climb. Libby May and Leubecker made the score a little more respectable, but it was just too little too late for the Terps as they dropped to 6-4 in a failed attempt at exacting revenge against a feisty Penn State team.

Three things to know

1. Penn State played a perfect game. From the intensity on offense, to tremendous defense in the crease and in the cage, Penn State executed a perfect game plan from start to finish. The two teams had been trending in opposite directions since their last meeting, but the Nittany Lions denied Maryland in almost every facet. Maryland once again held the draw control advantage, but Penn State handled the Terrapin turnover issues to a tee, outshooting the Terps 35-27.

“Coming off of this loss, we’re just going to try to learn from it, get better and then look forward toward our Hopkins game,” Griffin said.

2. Turnovers once again plagued the Terps. Thursday’s narrow victory against Rutgers was defined by costly unforced turnovers down the stretch for Maryland. That trend continued against the Nittany Lions, as the Terps committed 16 turnovers, with Penn State causing just eight of those. The draw circle favored the Terrapins 19-8, but they couldn’t hold onto the ball thereafter, which also played into the severe disparity in quality shots.

“Here we are talking about [turnovers] again and and we’re running out of time to put these kind of words into play and these actions into play, and make that change on the field,” Reese said. “Overall, it just wasn’t good all over the field.”

3. This was not a typical Maryland performance. It was odd watching this game from start to finish, as the Terps had no real signs of momentum. The tides never seemed to change in favor of the Terrapins as they never led in the match. It was as atypical as a Cathy Reese’s led Maryland team could not produce in this matchup. An expected revenge game from the Terrapins against a fellow top-15 team fell short of expectations, as this loss completed the season sweep in favor of the Nittany Lions.

“It’s time to put our foot down and execute what we’re practicing, execute what we’re asking and make that transition from practice to the game,” Reese said.