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Maryland women’s lacrosse’s comeback falls short, defeated by No. 7 Duke, 13-12

The Terps used a strong second half run to put themselves in position to tie, but the final shot was saved by the Blue Devils.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Facing its largest deficit of the afternoon, Maryland women’s lacrosse had to fight for its season against the No. 7-seeded Duke Blue Devils.

Cue the May sisters, as attackers Catie and Libby contributed on four straight goals, connecting with one another on two of those. Attacker Hannah Leubecker added to the run from the free position, pushing Maryland’s run to five.

The Terrapins were able to gain the final possession with 26.8 second left, but it was too little too late, as Maryland’s final shot at the net was just poked out by goalkeeper Sophia LeRose to seal the defeat for the Terps, 13-12.

This was a season unlike any other for the Terrapins, as this loss marks the first time since 2008 that they have failed to make it to the Final Four.

“We weren’t letting up at all,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “To see the fight that this group had and their determination and the heart that they played with was pretty special.”

Catie May added, “I’m proud to be a part of a team that fights so hard and worked so hard for each other. This was a tough year and we’ve overcome a lot. I’m just so proud of everyone for giving our all and working so hard together.”

Maryland and Duke renewed its rivalry on Sunday as the fight for a spot in the quarterfinals commenced in Durham.

Although the initial offensive possession did not connect for the Terps, a free position save by goalkeeper Emily Sterling on the other end segued into a transition score.

Off of the ground ball pickup, defender Lizzie Colson darted the length of the field before dishing it to Libby May, who then found attacker Brindi Griffin down low for the opening goal.

A green card by May initiated a woman-up scenario for the Blue Devils, one in which it capitalized on to tie it up. Attackers Katie DeSimone and Anna Callahan then added scores of their own to take an early 3-1 lead.

Maryland’s offense was severely lacking in the opening minutes, with midfielder Shaylan Ahearn’s free position goal being just the second shot for the team.

After falling behind 4-2, Colson broke up a Duke attack with a picture perfect interception, leading to May taking it strong side for her sixth goal of the weekend.

Another interception by the Tewaaraton finalist — this time being a one-handed pickoff of midfielder Catriona Barry — led to another offensive chance by the Terrapins, one that Leubecker took advantage of to make it a 5-4 ballgame.

Up to four ground balls and three caused turnovers in the opening 15 minutes, Colson kept the Terrapins hanging around despite the limited offensive opportunities.

Still, Maryland couldn’t put the early deficit past them. The Terps fell behind by two off of a transition goal from attacker Catherine Cordrey before ceding a seventh score to the sixth different Blue Devil.

Needing a boost on a woman-up scenario, Maryland’s offense struggled to penetrate the Blue Devil interior for 82 seconds of its shot clock. That was until Catie May bounced a shot past LeRose, injecting some life into the Terrapins.

The May sisters connected thereafter, as Catie found Libby to make it a one-goal game yet again, but DeSimone responded with her third goal of the afternoon to extend Duke’s lead.

Attacker Gabby Rosenzweig added another goal for good measure to drop the Terps back down to a multi-score deficit heading into the half. Maryland just couldn’t put together scoring runs and the second half presented a heavy challenge for the defending national champs.

Duke and Maryland had similar counting stats in the first half, but the main difference was the failure to piece together scoring runs. The Terps scored consecutive goals only once, and even then there was a nine minute drought by the Blue Devils that only resulted in two scores from Maryland.

“I thought we were hesitant and didn’t respond well to Duke’s pressure,” Reese said. “Once we kind of settled in, I thought we did a much better job overall ... offensively it just took us a while to kick things into gear.”

The Terps just didn’t cash in on the opportunities and that sudden halt of momentum following the May sisters’s goals continued into the second half, as two quick goals by the Blue Devils made it 11-6 off of four-straight scores.

Leubecker thwarted more damage by Duke with a pretty spin move for her 57th score of the season, but the Terps had to rattle off a few scores in a row to try and get back into this one.

Rosenzweig wouldn’t let that happen, however, as a quick dodge on Colson opened up the lane for the former Penn standout to bring the lead back up to five. Maryland’s defense continued to implode, as Barry found a wide open lane down the middle.

By that point, Maryland faced a six goal deficit, its largest of the game.

Having to put together a comeback in the final 20 minutes, Catie May was the first to answer with her second goal of the day. A minute later, she found her sister Libby for a second goal in a minute.

With just under ten minutes remaining, Maryland scored its third straight goal as the comeback continued to gain some steam. Once again, it was the May’s making it happen, with Catie finding Libby for the third time today to cut it to 13-10.

After Colson went down with an injury while taking a charge, Maryland continued to find some rhythm late as Libby May assisted midfielder Grace Griffin. Leubecker added to the late onslaught on the free position, making it a one score game.

With 26.8 seconds left, Libby May was able to get a shot off aimed at the top right corner, but LeRose poked the ball out of the way to hand Maryland its first loss in the NCAA Tournament since May 25, 2018.

“This is definitely a growing experience and it’s going to help the team a lot in the future,” Catie May said. “Unfortunately today we ran out of time, but we had moments of greatness and I think that [the returnees] can lean back on that and carry that into the future with them.”

Three things to know

1. Maryland competed on the draw. Going up against midfielder Maddie Jenner and the second-ranked draw control percentage team in the country, the Terps faced an uphill battle. But Maryland didn’t just keep that category respectable, it stuck around with the Blue Devils as the two teams alternated opening possession gains. Attacker Hannah Warther had five, while Ahearn and Colson had four a piece as Maryland and Duke both finished with 13.

2. Katie DeSimone was a force. A major thorn in Maryland’s side today was true freshman DeSimone. A top-5 recruit from Bay Shore, New York, DeSimone built off of her four goal debut in the NCAA Tournament versus Mount St. Mary’s with another four goal outing in the matchup against the Terrapins. She was extremely efficient too, missing just two shots today after going 4-for-4 in Friday’s first round match.

3. The Terrapins will be back. This was a tough year for the Terps. They fell short of expectations after being ranked in the top-10 by Inside Lacrosse in the preseason polls. They had to navigate a conference only schedule amid a global pandemic, resulting in the worst regular season win percentage of Reese’s tenure. But Reese is no fan of excuses.

The bright future of the Terrapins — which features Libby May (nine goals scored in the tournament) and Hannah Leubecker (57 goals on the year) — plus a solid foundation of returning seniors should make Maryland a force once again in 2022.

“I’m definitely looking forward to their growth as a unit, but we need to get back to some sense of normalcy so we have that opportunity,” Reese said.