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Maryland women’s lacrosse Big Ten semifinal preview: Johns Hopkins

Part III of the Hopkins-Maryland rivalry will determine who advances to a much-anticipated championship game.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

A dominant first half display from the No. 2 seed Maryland women’s lacrosse team set them up for a 16-13 victory over No. 7 seed Michigan on Thursday.

The offense didn’t let up in the opening half, piecing together 12 scores to record the highest total in a half this season. A 10-1 run did the job, even as Michigan began to mount a bit of a comeback in the second half.

Maryland’s victory sets up a third edition of the in-state rivalry versus 3-seed Johns Hopkins. The semi-final showdown will be played Friday at 8 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.

What happened last time

Friday’s semi-final may be tough to follow-up with as much excitement as the previous Hopkins game was two weeks ago. A 9-8 victory for the Terps ended up being one of the more exciting games of the season down the stretch despite the low scoring.

Three goals within the first four minutes of the second half matched the Blue Jays’s first half total, hinting at a Terps takeover in the final 30 minutes. That was until Maryland’s offense disappeared — for 23:16 to be exact.

The drought allowed Hopkins to take an 8-7 lead, but two late goals from attacker Brindi Griffin and midfielder Grace Griffin (which came with just 39.2 seconds remaining) catapulted the Terps to a narrow victory.

In two games versus Hopkins this year, both resulted in 9-8 victories for the Terps.

What has happened since

Johns Hopkins played three times compared to Maryland’s one to end the regular season. The Blue Jays were able to pull out victories in all three road games following the crushing defeat versus Maryland.

In the Big Ten tournament, Hopkins matched up with No. 6 seed Penn State, a team they had swept in the regular season. It was a highly contested matchup, but Hopkins finished off the Nittany Lions yet again, winning 11-9 behind a behemoth 9-2 first half margin.

The Terps ended their regular season with a loss to Rutgers, marking the first loss to the Scarlet Knights in program history. Despite the blemish, they earned the 2-seed thanks to the head-to-head advantage held against the Blue Jays.

Entering postseason play looking to reverse its fortunes, Maryland came out aggressive to lead Michigan 12-3 at halftime. The Terps fell off in the second half, but the cushion built in the first 30 minutes was enough to put away the Wolverines.

Three things to watch

1. Might we see another nail biter? Attacker Hannah Leubecker rifled in the game-winning goal for the Terrapins in overtime against Hopkins back on Mar. 12. Then, Grace Griffin took her turn in ripping the hearts out the Blue Jay faithful on Apr. 14. What will Part III have in store in this growing rivalry? If there’s any indication based on the previous two meetings, we should expect an instant classic. Add in the chance to advance to the Big Ten tournament title game, and this primetime showdown will be must-see TV.

2. Can Maryland replicate its first half against Michigan? Excusing the disappointment in the second half, Maryland played a perfect game. The offense was clicking en route to a tremendous 12-goal half and the defense was equally as imposing with goaltender Emily Sterling holding it down. The question now is can the Terps maintain that level of play into the latter 30 minute period of game time.

3. What to expect from Hannah Leubecker? In her first postseason action, Leubecker exploded for six goals (five in the first half) to propel Maryland to another semi-final appearance. Based on the legacy she has already built at such a young age, this performance should come as no surprise, but how well will the sophomore produce in game two? She scored ten times in the regular season versus Michigan, but just five times against Hopkins. Still, the potential for another offensive clinic on the Big Ten’s biggest stage remains open for business for Leubecker on Friday.