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No. 9 Maryland women’s lacrosse hangs on for 14-12 win over No. 23 Rutgers

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The Terps could have put the game away early, but the Scarlet Knights crawled back to make it a tight contest.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

After No. 23 Rutgers battled back to tie the match at 12 against No. 9 Maryland, midfielder Shaylan Ahearn lined up for the free position opportunity following a caused turnover by defender Maddie Sanchez.

The sophomore’s follow through was deflected by the Scarlet Knight defense, but the bouncing ball was able to slip past goalkeeper Sophia Cardello for the tie-breaking goal to give Maryland a cushion down the stretch.

Maryland had 17 turnovers in the game today, with Rutgers causing just ten of those. Unforced errors were detrimental to Maryland holding onto its lead, but the Terps were able to hang on down the stretch for a 14-12 senior day win.

“It’s great to come away with a win on a beautiful night for lacrosse,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “We saw some really good things, made some great plays and have some things we need to continue to do better and work on, but overall pleased with where we are.”

Attacker Catie May got things rolling off of the first possession for Maryland as she executed on her signature behind the net low shot for the opening score.

Goalkeeper Madison Hine also came up huge for the Terrapins in the opening minutes, denying a free position shot by midfielder Julia Lytle before following it up with another save off of a second free position attempt by Lytle.

Maryland was given plenty of opportunities to dig the Scarlet Knights into a two-goal hole, but a handful of turnovers and a yellow card picked up by defender Lizzie Colson gave Rutgers attacker Hannah Hollingsworth the equalizer just under seven minutes in.

Midfielder Hannah Warther responded quickly with a free position conversion, but Rutgers wouldn’t stay down for too long as midfielder Lauren Ellis scored off of another Maryland turnover — the team’s third unforced — tying the match at two heading into the media timeout.

Despite the flurry of turnovers, the Terps kept the pressure on the Scarlet Knight defense, once again converting on a free position goal, this time via attacker Libby May.

The back and forth continued, with attacker Marin Hartshorn firing in a laser off a free position high and in on Hine, tying the match at three as the half approached the midway point.

Maryland finally was able to piece together consecutive goals thanks to the play of Warther. Goal No. 13 on the year for the senior midfielder came at the 17:22 mark before a phenomenal assist from Libby May set up Warther for the hat trick and gave the Terps a two-goal edge.

A lull period ensued as the defensive pressure picked up on both sides, but once again Warther was there for the Terrapins, firing in her second free position score and fourth goal of the day to make it 7-3.

Attacker Hannah Leubecker then found the back of the net for her 36th of the season, extending Maryland’s run to five. However, Rutgers wouldn’t be held in the foxhole for much longer, as Hartshorn’s second of the day ended the away team’s 14:06 scoring drought.

As former Terp Kali Hartshorn had done for years as a perennial goal scorer in College Park, her younger sister Marin was doing it all for Rutgers, converting 34 seconds after her drought-ending score to make it a three score game with 3:38 remaining in the half.

The momentum was shifting after Hartshorn’s two goals, as what was once looking like a dominant first half from the Terps was suddenly cut to just a two goal lead off a second score from Hollingsworth.

A 5-0 run in the middle of the half made this seem like a runaway for the Terps, but Rutgers marched back in the final five minutes, with attacker Cassidy Spilis scoring her first of the game to punctuate Maryland’s collapse on defense to end the half with the score at 8-7.

“We always try to put the first half behind us no matter what it is,” attacker Brindi Griffin said. “One thing we talked a lot about was turnovers, just trying to improve on those simple things like catching and throwing.”

Out of the half, Maryland was aggressive on offense, as Griffin opened the second period with her second goal of the game before the May sisters connected on a woman-down situation, Libby finding Catie, to make it 10-7.

Still down a woman, Maryland couldn’t hold off the Rutgers attack, ceding a score from Lytle off the feed from Harsthorn, marking her fourth point of the day. Hartshorn then found Spilis after an extended scoring drought from both sides, bringing it back to a one score game with 17:41 remaining.

A two goal spurt led by Libby May and Ahearn gave the Terps a bit of separation, but Rutgers climbed back into this one thanks to a three goal run to tie it up at 12.

The tie-breaking goal came off of the free position from Ahearn after her deflected shot crossed the goal line. Griffin was able to put the finishing touches on a narrow finish with just over a minute left, helping the Terps escape a close game down the stretch.

“We’re happy that we came out with this win, but I don’t think we’re going to come out of this super hyped up,” Warther said. “We haven’t played a full 60 minutes of greatness. I think that’s very exciting that we still have so much potential to fulfill.”

Three things to know

1. Maryland shot itself in the foot down the stretch. At one point towards the end of the first half, Maryland held a 7-2 advantage and looked to be coasting to victory. That all changed in the final five minutes as Rutgers collected five goals to end the half — three of which were off of turnovers — to make it a one goal game. That momentum shift continued into the second half, with Maryland’s carelessness — highlighted by seven uncaused turnovers — playing a big factor in the Scarlet Knights comeback efforts.

“We need to do a better job of taking pride in every possession,” Reese said. “I felt like we were sloppy. Rutgers sometimes came up with some really good checks and they were pressuring us hard in the midfield, but there were a handful or more that we just threw out of bounds and that’s just not good enough.”

2. Lizzie Colson continued to shine. Despite the defense’s collapse in the latter half of this top-25 showdown, Colson once again proved why she may just be the best defender in the Big Ten, if not the country. The senior was all over the place Thursday, collecting seven ground balls, four draw controls and causing six turnovers. Her ground ball and caused turnover numbers were tops across the field today, while her draw control numbers were second on the Terps’ side, just behind Ahearn’s five.

“She would never admit how good she is, so I can brag for her,” Griffin said. “She is just incredible on the draw, she’s incredible on defense ... and I’m excited to see what she can do for the rest of the season.”

3. Reese stuck to her guns in the first half. To honor the seniors, Reese rolled out an all-senior starting lineup (excluding Ahearn). Hine got her first start of the season in between the pipes, while midfielder Brooke Robbins and attacker Maggie Root — who combined have seen action in one game this season — drew starts as well. The move was expected and was a great way to honor the loyal members of the program, but Reese stuck to her lineup, especially with Hine in goal as she logged a .462 save percentage in a full half of play. It just goes to show not just the immense depth that the Maryland women’s lacrosse program has, but the trust Reese has in her players from top to bottom.

“Each of our seniors they really mean something special to us in our program,” Reese said. Warther added, “This senior class is extremely resilient. Obviously it’s been such an odd year for all of us compared to the past three to four years, but we’ve still be able to make all the weirdness fun and so I think that’s what translates to a lot of our success.”