Maryland unleashes the offensive in a 16-8 win over Rutgers
Sat 03/18/2023 | Beth Ann Mayer | University
College women Rutgers
PHOTO COURTESY OF RUTGERS ATHLETICS
PISCATAWAY, NJ — In Maryland’s first nine games, the defense — for the most part — had held up. Only Syracuse and Florida had scored double figures against Defender U.
But the offense had to find a foothold without 2022 Tewaaraton finalist Aurora Cordingley. The Terps struggled against zone defenses and got off to an uncharacteristic 6-3 start by Maryland standards, losing to ‘Cuse, James Madison and Denver.
Four Terps scored at least three goals on Saturday as Maryland defeated Rutgers 16-8 in a repeat of last year’s Big Ten title game at SHI Stadium. Hannah Leubecker scored five goals for Maryland (7-3) while Eloise Clevenger had a team-high six points with three goals and three assists. Libby May finished the game with four goals, and top freshman Kori Edmondson scored a hat-trick.
The Terps’ play in the first 15 minutes marked a role reversal from previous games. It was the defense that started slowly. Leubecker provided the spark early, scoring four of the Terps’ seven goals in the first quarter. But Rutgers (4-4) kept up and scored five goals, four of which came from Marin Hartshorn.
“Defensively, we just weren’t on our game plan,” said Maryland head coach Cathy Reese. “We gave Emily open eyes [Sterling]. We have a great goalkeeper, but defensively we have to be better in front of her so that she can see the shots we know we want to take. Rutgers has some dangerous offensive players. We are aware of that.”
Hartshorn was one of them. But like Maryland, Rutgers lost their top scorer in Taralyn Naslonski last year, not to mention leading assist Stephanie Kelly. It faced challenges to fill these tunnels. Hartshorn rang early against Maryland.
“Hartshorn has increased. This team really thrives on their energy,” said Rutgers coach Melissa Lehman. “That really kept us in the game in the first half.”
Hartshorn scored another in the second quarter to finish with five goals and an assist. But the Maryland defense locked in and limited the Scarlet Knights to three goals the rest of the way, while Big Ten Midfielder of the Year Cassidy Spilis went clean for the first time in 2023 (she had an assist).
“We have a lot of guys that we want to keep improving,” Lehman said. “I feel like today we were looking for someone else to get the ball rolling and you can’t rely on just one goalscorer.”
Neither team scored in the second quarter until Libby May broke through at 4:31 in an open position. But Hartshorn struck with 17 seconds left at half-time and appeared to give Rutgers a chance to build momentum at the break. Then Leubecker got stuck again. After Shaylan Ahearn won the draw, Leubecker sliced to the cage and hit the buzzer with a hard shot from the right that gave Maryland a 9-6 lead.
“I told everyone, ‘We’ve got this. Stay locked up,'” Leubecker said. “Lacrosse is a swing game. When you get to the moment when it might change, you have to take it game by game. If you get out of the next game and don’t let the game affect you before you affect it, you can keep the momentum on your side.
It doesn’t hurt if your draw unit dominates. The Terps won 19 of 27 draws – Ahearn controlled seven and Abby Bosco six.
“They’re a very good draw unit,” Lehman said. “Ahern does a really good job commanding her circle and strategically getting the ball where she’s trying and they fight hard. Unfortunately, sometimes Maryland beat us by 50-50.”
The offense continued for the Terps early in the second half as May, Edmondson and Clevenger opened the third frame with goals to give Maryland a six-goal lead, 12-6. The sides traded goals to end the frame. Ashley Moynahan and Katie Buck scored for the Rutgers, and Edmondson and Clevenger scored for the Terps. Edmondson, a rookie from McDonogh, now has five straight games with three or more goals.
“She didn’t play scared or shy,” Leubecker said. “She plays with an intensity. When you see someone trying so hard, you want to make it so difficult for them.”
The terps maintained intensity for the first minute of the last frame. May’s goal after 19 ticks at halftime gave Maryland a 15-8 lead, and Clevenger’s third of the day made it 16-8. The feat achieved was a downhill for Clevenger, who normally distributes. The junior went into the game as the team’s best with eight goals and 17 assists.
“I want her to aim more,” Reese said. “When she does that, you can see how good she is. She’s a great shooter, a great finisher. She’s someone we put in that back role because she sees the field so well, but she’s also excellent inside and upstairs. The more we can involve them in things that attack the cage, the more dangerous we are as an insult.”
Maryland has had four straight wins since losing consecutive games, and Reese called her team a work in progress.
“We had to find our own way,” Reese said. “Aurora was such a dangerous threat to us. We had to learn a lot about ourselves and really break things down. Well it’s like bring it on. We are ready. If you want to play us in a zone, we’ll take it.”
A light schedule for the next 10 days will give the terps some time to prepare for Big Ten play. Maryland plays Penn on Wednesday and then has a week to prepare for another Ivy foe in Princeton on Wednesday, March 29th. Then the heart of the Big Ten schedule begins with Michigan on Sunday, April 2 and culminates with rival No. 3 Northwest on Saturday, April 22.
“It kind of sneaked up on us,” Reese said. “We’re 10 games into the season and it’s like, holy moly. … We have to find it every day that we play.”