BALTIMORE – On April 17, the University of Maryland women’s lacrosse team was down by four heading into halftime against Georgetown University. It was the largest deficit the Terrapins had faced during the regular season, and they responded by scoring 13-straight before routing the Hoyas.
However, fast forward to May 5 in the Big Ten Women’s Lacrosse Tournament final, a six-goal turnaround against the No. 5 team in the country (Northwestern University) proved to be too much for Maryland to overcome.
“We were in too deep,” Maryland Head Coach Cathy Reese said.
The No. 1 Terps were blitzed by Northwestern’s attack, firing more than 38 shots and winning faceoffs with ease throughout the title game held at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
Senior Selena Lasota punched Maryland’s defense with four goals, capping off a near-perfect performance by the Wildcats, winning their first Big Ten Conference Tournament with a 16-11 victory. The loss ended Maryland’s run for an undefeated season and winning a fourth–straight tournament title.
“They brought it, and we didn’t,” Reese said. “We dug ourselves into a hole, and we just couldn’t get our footing to get out.”
After having no problems defeating Penn State University on May 3 in the tournament semifinal game, Maryland knew they would face an important test taking on the Wildcats. During the regular season, Northwestern was up by three goals against the Terps before falling 17-13 on April 11.
However, Maryland got off to a shaky start, surrendering the game’s first goal to Izzy Scane in the game’s opening minute.
It was the sixth time this season that Maryland allowed their opponents to score first. Scane would take advantage of a turnover and drive past two Maryland defenders before launching a long-range effort to score her 50th goal of the season.
Already down two, Caroline Steele would try to get the Terps back into the game, collecting the loose ball after a two-shot scramble to get Maryland on the scoreboard. Goals by Liza Elder and Lindsey McKone put Maryland back into the three-goal hole early in the first half.
The deficit almost got worse when Lasota’s shot sailed into the net, but game officials called the attempted follow-through with her shot “dangerous,” giving her a yellow card. Erica Evans would take advantage of the extra-man advantage by receiving a behind the net pass by attacker Catie May to score Maryland’s second goal.
Maryland continued to struggle with faceoffs as Northwestern won 12 out of the 15 draws in the first half. Goals by Brindi Griffin and Steele attempted to remedy the situation, but Maryland did not score for the rest of the half. The goal drought opened the door for the Wildcats as they scored five-straight goals in 10 minutes to close the half.
“They are a really quick team and very hard to keep up with,” Maryland defender Lizzie Colson said. “We had a few lapses that they capitalized on, and they were taking advantage of our mistakes, and they took advantage of the mental lapses we had.”
According to Northwestern Head Coach Kelly Hiller, part of their success was giving Maryland’s attackers no room to make shots and using their offensive strengths in front of goal. However, their effectiveness at the draw and the 10-save goalkeeping performance by tournament MVP Mallory Weisse gave them a stronger advantage heading into halftime with a six-goal cushion.
“We wanted to keep them at bay and take away some of their strengths,” Hiller said. “We knew how many weapons they had and we knew we had to play well individually and make some stops.”
The six-goal hole was the biggest deficit the Terrapins have faced since they were down by seven goals to Virginia on March 14, 2007. While Maryland tried to find their offensive footing in the second half, Northwestern began pulling away, scoring four goals, including McKone adding two more goals to complete her hat trick.
Meanwhile, as Griffin and midfielder Hannah Warther scored to help Maryland battle back, senior Jen Giles, who has been one of the team’s offensive leaders throughout her tenure at College Park, was silent and did not score.
Maryland would score four goals in the final 12 minutes, dropping their deficit down to four with less than four minutes remaining. However, there was no stopping the Wildcat offense with Lasota receiving a McKone pass before rushing through the heart of the Maryland defense for her fourth and final goal of the game.
“I think we learned a lot from this loss,” Griffin said. “They capitalized a lot on our mistakes but we are excited to keep going because of this, we know what to work on (heading to the national tournament).”
During her postgame remarks, Reese said that her players will learn from their loss but that it was not a setback for the program. Instead, the loss will be viewed as a learning experience that the Terps will hope to use as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament to avenge their conference loss and turn it into national championship glory.