Maryland No. 10 lacrosse forward Eloise Clevenger was unstoppable in her matchup against Princeton No. 17.
Clevenger started early in the first quarter, giving two assists to the net front cutters, and was fired up from the start. In the second quarter, she almost single-handedly led Maryland to a 12-5 halftime lead with a multitude of goals and a few more assists. Clevenger’s three goals and four assists that night led to a solid performance from the Terps as they beat Princeton 15-11 at College Park on Wednesday night.
“While we’re seeing her confidence continue to grow, we’re seeing her become more energetic,” said Cathy Reese, Maryland head coach. “She can play at the top, she can play at the back [the net]she can dodge.”
The game started with a draw control win from Maryland. After working the ball as usual, the Tigers eventually fouled Maryland. The Terps didn’t miss the opportunity as attacker Hannah Leubecker quickly dodged to the cage and fired a remarkable shot to give Maryland the first lead of the game.
Princeton didn’t take long to respond to Maryland’s strike, waiting patiently and isolating attackers on the offensive end. Kari Buonanno opened the scoring for the Tigers, scoring against Abby Bosco’s hard-fought defense.
Libby May continued the goal for the terps shortly after and used them after making a quick cut to the cage. Clevenger, Maryland’s leading assist player, made no mistake when he found the open May for the go-ahead goal.
The next few minutes were filled with turnovers and amazing saves from both programs. Although both teams defended hard and physically, there were numerous fouls. While Princeton failed to secure his chance at a vacancy, May conceded her attempt for Maryland.
In the next few minutes, midfielder Shaylan Ahearn scored for Maryland, Clevenger’s assistant coming from behind the net.
The first frame ended with Princeton taking some of the momentum. Attacker Jami MacDonald even scored a nice goal from behind. At the start of the second quarter, Maryland led 6-4.
The Terps opened the second quarter with one of their fastest goals to open a quarter of the entire season. Just 18 seconds later, Clevenger fired a missile down the center of the crease area, and Leubecker used her quick trigger to score before the Tigers goalie could even react.
About a minute later, May hit with her patented quick shot to extend the lead even further. Then the two goals from outstanding freshman Kori Edmondson forced Princeton to call a time-out. In the first five minutes of the second quarter alone, Maryland scored five goals.
Maryland’s offense just worked perfectly. When it got free position opportunities, it cashed in. When the Tigers’ defense pressed it, it played quick passes that almost always resulted in a net goal. The Terps’ offense also isolated itself, and Edmondson proved that this type of plan could work on their first result. In the first 20 minutes of play, Clevenger had four goals and one assist and May had four goals.
The Terrapin defenses choked. With Princeton already having some problems with drops, Maryland accentuated its problems by forcing turnovers and passes that weren’t open. With their hard-fought one-on-one defense, the Terps left attackers little room to maneuver.
At halftime, the Terrapins led the Tigers 12-5.
The third frame started with a draw control from Princeton followed by a save from Emily Sterling. However, with the Terps failing to score on their first possession, the Tigers quickly recovered the ball and used a shot from open position.
Princeton scored again five minutes later. It marked his second in a row. Maryland had a few scoring chances during this period, but Reese chose to use some of the backups so they could get playing time.
“It was kind of a situation where we knew we had to look good, but we didn’t shoot very well,” Reese said. “It was a little bit frustrated and a little bit about who’s going to be the one to step up.”
After Princeton’s second of the quarter, Reese rehired the starters and May started right where she left off, delivering an unassisted result. It was her fifth evening.
Clevenger scored late in the quarter for her seventh point of the matter. It gave the Terps a boost of momentum into the fourth quarter in a game they had already led big. After three frames, Maryland was leading 14-7.
Princeton opened the fourth quarter with a goal after about three minutes to reduce Maryland’s lead to six. However, May responded relatively quickly and scored her sixth goal of the game.
But Princeton wasn’t going down without a fight. It scored two goals in a row from open position to make it a 15-10 game with just under eight minutes remaining.
“We got the job done, but I think we can do so much better,” said former Princeton and Maryland defenseman Marge Donovan. “This defense is capable of some incredible things. We have to put in a consistent performance from the start of the first quarter to the final whistle.”
After the Terps flipped the ball on a sloppy pass, Princeton made them pay at the other end and cut the lead to four. However, Maryland managed to hold on and stay on defense for the final more than six minutes.
Three things to know
1. The offense was outstanding. Yes, the terps had 16 turnovers. And even with that, Maryland scored 15 goals. More importantly, the stars played like stars on Wednesday. Clevenger was the top scorer with three goals and four assists. May, the team’s top scorer, had six. Edmondson, who has been the brightest spot on the squad this season, had two goals.
Beyond the stats, the Terps controlled the flow of the game. They never felt like they were rushing their offense and every pass was played with conviction and confidence.
“I think what’s special about Maryland Lacrosse every year is that anyone can be dangerous on offense,” May said. It’s super exciting.”
2. Tie control fight. Early in the game, Maryland was expected to crush Princeton with draw-control wins given how poorly the Tigers have done against them and how wealthy the Terps are in the circle. However, it was a lot closer than anyone could have expected, as Maryland won only 15 out of 30 draw controls.
In a way it speaks to how well the defense has performed as Princeton have been given more chances. It’s most likely an anomaly and simply a nitpick on an exceptional night of lacrosse for the Terrapins.
“A lot of them were just 50-50 balls,” Reese said of the struggle for draw controls. “Ownership was kind of the same there. We did what we had to do, but we’re on a whole different level [to get to].”
3. Encourage improvement. After their losses to James Madison and Denver, Maryland has seen significant improvements and confidence on both offense and defense. Gone are the days when the terps gave up five or six runs to clearly overwhelmed opponents.
Always composed, Maryland has now taken an early lead over every team they’ve played against and has maintained that lead. Since losing to Denver, the Terps have outscored their opponents by 93-45 and appear to be a formidable threat. If Maryland were to face a side like Syracuse again – a game in which the Terps lost 20-11 – expect a much closer result.
“We’re halfway through the season and I like our progress,” Reese said. “I like where we’re going…I’m looking forward to finishing the next five games with conference games again.”