It was a deflating result for the No. 9 Maryland women’s lacrosse team this past Sunday, as the rematch against No. 14 Penn State fell short of expectations for the Terps. Struggles on both ends of the field spelled trouble for Maryland, as they lost 16-9 and were left with more questions than answers.
“We just weren’t playing as the unit that we know we can be,” midfielder Shaylan Ahearn said. “We got really individual when things didn’t go our way. We make a few good plays and then we don’t execute on the opposite end whether it’s defense or offense. That kind of gets in our head a little bit.”
This next matchup against Johns Hopkins will be crucial for Maryland in rewriting its fortunes ahead of postseason play. The last time these two met was on March 12 where the Terps prevailed in overtime, 9-8.
The upcoming rendition of this in-state battle will take place in College Park at 2:30 p.m. and will be televised on the Big Ten Network.
What happened last time
This game was supposed to be the first on the schedule for the Terrapins, but it instead fell after two solid victories against then-No. 17 Michigan after the game was postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests in the Johns Hopkins’ program. In this one, offense was severely lacking for both sides as neither team eclipsed double digits scores.
Maryland went into halftime down 5-4 after not scoring for the final 14:46 of the half. A 3-0 run to start the second period gave the Terps a solid 7-5 lead with 14:18 remaining, but just one goal from then on led to the Blue Jays forcing overtime.
Three minutes into the overtime period, freshman attacker Hannah Leubecker scored the game-winner, extending her impressive run off of the heels of her Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week notion.
What has happened since
Maryland continued its best stretch of the season following the overtime grudge match versus Johns Hopkins. Two wins over Ohio State segued into a marquee showdown versus Northwestern, where the Terps fell victim to the offensive onslaught of the Wildcats twice.
They have been up and down since, as a victory against Rutgers on April 8 was followed by a deflating loss to No. 14 Penn State. Now sitting at 6-4 on the year, Maryland will aim to get back on the right foot against a Johns Hopkins team that has played just twice since its matchup against the Terps.
The Blue Jays’ series against Michigan was postponed, but after not playing for nearly a month, Hopkins rebounded nicely from the long layoff with an upset victory over the Nittany Lions.
Hopkins’ good fortunes continued on April 11, when they edged the Scarlet Knights by seven goals behind six scores from attacker Aurora Cordingley.
Three things to watch
1. Will Maryland correct its consistency issues? Maryland’s offense has seen its fair share of peaks and valleys this season, and one of the lowest valleys occurred against this very Johns Hopkins team. After two .500 shooting performances against Michigan, the Terps came crashing back down to a .300 clip on offense against the Blue Jays. This resulted in a season-low of nine goals and since then, Maryland has not been able to consistently succeed on offense. Now, following a dismal outing against Penn State, the Terps will more than ever need to figure out its consistency woes. A tough defense awaits and Maryland will have to bounce back well in order to win its home finale.
“We really just need to create those lanes and we need to go hard,” Leubecker said. “I think we’ve been sitting back waiting for things to happen, but we really need to take advantage of that and make the opportunities for ourselves.”
2. How will the short week impact the Terrapins? This is one of the quickest turnarounds for the Terps all season and it couldn’t have come at a more inopportune time. Coming off of a disappointing performance against Penn State, there are a lot of kinks that Maryland has had to work out in just one day.
“We were off [Monday] so today was just a lot of game planning for tomorrow,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “We needed to go back through and review some of our film from Penn State and that would just kind of go over the things we made defensively, errors we made, and things we need to change in our preparation for Hopkins.”
It will be worth monitoring just how corrective the Terps are in not just the mistakes they made against Penn State, but also in handling what they struggled with against the Blue Jays in their last outing.
3. Can Maryland make possessions more meaningful? Offensive struggles start with taking care of the ball and Reese has said in recent weeks how much more she wants her team to convert on meaningful possessions.
“Either we settle for taking the first look and not the best look ... and then I just think what we’ve had this season is a lack of execution,” Reese said. “We have a turnover, or unforced error or goalie save, and the other team is coming down to have the chance to score. We just need to take a little more pride in every possession and work a little harder on the offensive end to make them count.
Ahearn added, “It’s not really about making mistakes, it’s more so about finding open looks and being really patient with the ball.”