Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Offensive balance and quick ball movement guide No. 1 Maryland to victory over Stony Brook

Facing off against the No. 1 seed, Stony Brook knew it would have to leave everything on the field and get off to a fast start. The Seawolves did exactly that, not backing down coming out firing on all cylinders.

“We didn’t come here to roll over and die,” Stony Brook coach Joe Spallina said. “We’re not going to bend the knee for anybody.”

Less than five minutes in, Stony Brook scored four goals jumping out an to an early 4-0 lead with great off-ball movement and dodging. However, Maryland used a dominant final 18 minutes of the first half, closing out on an 8-0 run, to cruise to a 17-8 victory.

“When we had the ball on offense, I thought we did a really nice job of being patient, picking the right shots and finishing those opportunities,” head coach Cathy Reese said.

Maryland was extremely efficient on offense all game long, scoring on 17 of 26 shots, converting on five of six man-up opportunities and six of eight free position shots. Displaying their unselfishness on offense and moving for each other, nine of the Terps 17 goals were assisted.

“That’s what you’ll find against teams that play zone defenses, we talked about moving the ball and working it inside,” Reese said. “[Shooting efficiency] has been a big area of focus for us, against a defense that is clogging and crashing the eight-meter you have to be efficient when you shoot.”

Sabrina Tabasso opened the scoring for the Seawolves, winning her individual matchup against her defender and firing the shot top shelf. Three of the first four Seawolves goals were unassisted, beating their defenders making Maryland pay for lunging. In addition to winning their individual matchups, Stony Brook did a great job of moving off-ball and cutting to open space.

“[Stony Brook] had a lot of movement, they were moving really well and having really good cuts,” senior defender Shelby Mercer said.

After Stony Brook’s hot start, head coach Cathy Reese called a timeout to reset the team and the defense. Throughout the week of preparation, Maryland was focused on adopting a “next play” mentality.

“[My message was] to restart, reset, we needed to just take a second to take a deep breath, reset and let’s fight to make a stop,” Reese said.

From her favorite spot on the field, the left hash mark, Steele rifled the shot top shelf putting Maryland on the board. Shortly after, Evans scored her first of five first half goals rifling the bounce shot into the back of the net from straight on.

From that point on, Maryland took over finding consistent space in middle of the Seawolves defense and locking up defensively outscoring Stony Brook 8-0. Four of the eight goals during the run, were assisted displaying the unselfishness of the Maryland offense.

After the Terps started to build momentum, attacker Nicole Barretta executed a back cut to perfection and finished the bounce shot on the feed from fellow attacker Sara Moeller. In the next two minutes, Maryland and Stony Brook each exchanged a goal giving the Seawolves a 6-3 lead with 18:27 remaining in the first half.

Senior midfielder Jen Giles opened the run for Maryland, finding open space in the middle of the field against the Sea Wolves zone defense and buried the shot top shelf on the feed from Evans. Soon after, the theme of off-ball movement and moving for each other continued, Grace Griffin scored consecutive goals tying up the score at six. In each case, Griffin cut towards the crease and used some fancy footwork to avoid the defender finishing the patient shot into the back of the net.

“Stony Brook has a great zone defense, all week we were practicing on filling those lanes and talking to each other,” Giles said. “On offense we wanted to make sure we were all on the same page, working together and moving for each other.”

Continuing the offensive onslaught, Steele scored on a free position opportunity varying her shot placement burying the shot low after scoring on a high shot earlier. Continuing her outstanding play of late, Evans scored all four of the Terps final first half goals.

Evans’ displayed a mix of everything; relentlessness scoring after a rebound, precision on a free position shot, and lacrosse IQ cutting to open space and making herself a target for her teammates passes. Although Maryland’s offense was strong during this stretch, the defense was also suffocating forcing the Sea Wolves into several turnovers.

“I think what changed is we started talking a lot more, working together, and picked up our energy a little bit,” Mercer said.

Coming out of halftime, the Terps were a little sloppy turning the ball over on consecutive possessions and not moving with the same offensive efficiency. Stony Brook seemed to be gaining more momentum, when Moeller scored her second goal of the game a finish past the Maryland defense.

Despite Stony Brook’s goal, just minutes earlier midfielder Allie Kennedy received her second yellow card of the game for a dangerous shot, removing her from the contest. Kennedy entered today’s game with 84 goals, one of the top scorers in the nation and the focal point of the Sea Wolves offense. After her departure, the Seawolves offense seemed to lose all momentum except for Moeller’s diving goal shortly before.

The Terps orchestrated another dominant stretch with a 6-0 run catapulting the lead to 17-7. As the second half progressed, the game picked up in physicality with both teams called for several fouls. Beginning the run, Giles completed her hat-trick doing a great job of maintaining her balance and then dipping her shoulder for the top shelf finish on the feed from Kali Hartshorn.

Hartshorn also scored back-to-back goals during the run, displaying her ability to convert defense into offense burying the breakaway into the net after forcing a turnover. Each of the final three Maryland goals, were scored on man up opportunities something Maryland did a great of throughout.

Continuing to fight until the final whistle, senior midfielder Mackenzie Burns scored on a free position shot for the Seawolves for their eighth and final goal of the day. With the win, Maryland advances to its 13th consecutive NCAA quarterfinal and will host Denver who defeated Michigan 9-5 next weekend at Maryland Stadium.