With 46.7 seconds left in the match with score tied at eight, No. 11 Maryland women’s lacrosse midfielder Grace Griffin caught the No. 20 Johns Hopkins defense sleeping.
Expected to drain the clock to its final seconds, Griffin chose to attack the unsuspecting Blue Jay defense and fire in a laser from her weak side, giving the Terps a 9-8 lead with 39.3 seconds remaining.
Defender Lizzie Colson scooped up the draw following Griffin’s monumental goal, icing the game for the Terrapins and allowing them to secure the season sweep over Hopkins with the narrow 9-8 victory.
“Knowing that when the going gets tough, we can keep fighting and knowing that we’re able to overcome that adversity and come together as a team and execute,” Griffin said is key. “I think that’s really important and I’m excited to see how that carries over.”
The Terps took the field for their final home game of the regular season against a feisty Hopkins team that took Maryland to a sudden death overtime period in its last meeting.
After gaining the opening possession, Maryland immediately fell back into bad habits with a quick turnover, but tremendous defense from Grace Griffin led to a Hopkins turnover and successful clear from the Terps.
The teams traded shots, with Hopkins seemingly putting more pressure on the Terrapins. A quick transition swing following Maryland’s third turnover led to a free position attempt from Blue Jays attacker Mackenzie Heldberg, but goalkeeper Emily Sterling was there for her third save on the day.
However, Sterling and the defense couldn’t hold off Hopkins for long as midfielder Lexi Souder converted for the Blue Jays on a low shot, forcing head coach Cathy Reese to spend her first timeout just 7:25 into the match.
With Maryland searching for answers, fouls and turnovers began to rack up with six and four, respectively. Despite the issues with getting into a rhythm on offense, Hopkins had its fair share of struggles on the offensive end as well, going 0-4 from the free position.
Off of a fifth Maryland turnover, attacker Aurora Cordingley slipped through the middle of the defense to send home the Blue Jays’s second goal of the contest. The Terrapins were finally able to answer at the 16:39 mark via Grace Griffin, cutting the early deficit in half.
As the minutes waned away in the first half, Maryland came up with just one goal on 12 shots, continuing the trend of lackluster offensive outings. Its on goal percentage was even dipping drastically, as just a 36.3% clip was far below the team’s standards.
“It’s like a problem I can’t solve right now,” Reese said. “Every play matters and we need to shoot with that kind of passion and energy when we do shoot over 50%. We’re going to keep working and that’s all we can do right now.”
The tides began to shift with about five minutes left to play in the first half.
Facing a woman-up situation following another solid defensive sequence from Griffin and Sterling, the Terps immediately took advantage as midfielder Hannah Warther tied up the defensive grudge match at two.
Attacker Brindi Griffin added to the offense’s wake-up call, as she rifled in a sideways shot to give Maryland a 3-2 advantage. After scoring just once in the first 24:32 of the match, the Terps rattled off two straight in just under a minute.
The hits just kept on coming to finish off the half, as an additional goal apiece made it a 4-3 ballgame entering the intermission.
Out of the half, Maryland was quick to score thanks to an odd looking goal from attacker Hannah Leubecker. The sophomore guided through heavy traffic off the left side to convert the team’s fifth score, but Hopkins was able to answer off of Heldberg’s second score of the game.
The shooting clinic continued as attacker Catie May took an extended route to the crease, taking a wide turn to ultimately free up some space in the middle for the goal. Grace Griffin then found Brindi Griffin for goal number seven, forcing Hopkins to use a timeout and talk things through.
After the Blue Jays converted on a woman-up free position to make it 7-5 at the 24:36 mark, Maryland’s offense began to revert back to its first half ways.
A pivotal defensive charge play by midfielder Bri Lamoureux reversed a Johns Hopkins goal, but the Blue Jays kept pressuring the Terps and eventually finished to make it 7-6 with just under halfway through the second period.
As Hopkins continued to climb back into the match, a bizarre sequence from Sterling led to an open net opportunity for the road team. Sterling was called for a charge, setting up Cordingley for the effortless game-tying goal at the 11:19 mark.
The collapse by the Terps carried into the final stretch, as another goal from Cordingley gave Hopkins its first lead since towards the end of the first half.
With just under three minutes to go, the Terrapins came out of its timeout and converted at a crucial spot in the game. Brindi Griffin was the scorer, driving in her season-high fourth goal to tie it up at eight.
Grace Griffin then gave the Terps the game-winning goal they were searching for with 39.3 seconds remaining before Colson collected her fifth draw control to ice the game.
“The way that our team rebounded from [Sterling’s charge call] says a lot about this group,” Reese said. “That could have caused our team to crumble and I think that’s one of the things we are so proud of.”
Three things to know
1. Emily Sterling had a solid bounce back. After being pulled against Penn State, Sterling aimed for a full-60 minute redemption game. The sophomore goalkeeper delivered against Johns Hopkins, keeping the Terps afloat despite a multitude of challenges for the offense. Moving past the second half run by the Blue Jays, Sterling came up clutch after Johns Hopkins took the 8-7 lead. Her ninth and tenth save on the day set up Brindi Griffin for the equalizer before Grace Griffin nailed in the game-winner. Sterling finished the contest with a .556 save percentage and will look to keep shutting down opposing offenses as the season approaches its finish.
“We were a step late against Penn State and today I think we really made some great adjustments from the last game,” Reese said. “Our staff is real big believers that we need to put the other team in positions where they’re taking shots that we’re set up to save. Emily having ten saves was awesome.”
2. Turnovers weren’t self-imposed for the Terps. In recent weeks, Maryland has shot itself in the foot on offense largely due to unforced turnovers stagnating the offense’s rhythm. While the turnovers didn’t disappear with the Terps committing 17, they were better at limiting self-imposed giveaways. Maryland began to tense up in the second half as its clear conversion rate dropped to 17-21, but beside that troublesome stat, just thrice were the Terps deterred by its own fault.
“We weren’t quite there yet this game, so it’s definitely something we’ll be able to focus on for our Rutgers game,” Brindi Griffin said. “All that matters is we’re making progress each game just little by little.”
3. Offense was dormant at times. Reese has been adamant about wanting her team to play a full 60 minutes, and once again that was not the case in another slim victory. The offense was completely neutralized after it once seemed that the Terps were turning the corner. After rattling off three scores to end the first half and continuing their impressive scoring run with three more to start the second half, Maryland’s offense fell off a cliff, going 23:16 without a score until the final two goals from Brindi Griffin and Grace Griffin. On the day, the Terps shot .333, a sight that would not be taken with open arms despite the win.