Losing is unfamiliar territory for Maryland and the Terps have an opportunity for revenge Friday facing the only team who defeated them earlier this season. On May 5, Northwestern beat Maryland 16-11 in the Big Ten Championship Game. Despite finding themselves in uncharted territory, head coach Cathy Reese and the Terps took the loss as a learning experience and an opportunity to examine what they could do better moving forward.
“Our team is in a different spot than we were then,” Reese said. “I think this has been a real valuable learning opportunity and experience for us and I’m excited to take the field again on Friday and see what this group is capable of.”
Re-examining themselves has provided success for the Terps, with consecutive 17-8 victories over Stony Brook and Denver-both teams possessing top five scoring defenses. Facing the same team a third time is a rarity, and the Terps are relishing that opportunity. Having split the previous two meetings, Maryland is looking to have a much-improved all-around performance this weekend.
“I’m so excited to be able to get [Northwestern] again and really prove to our team and everyone else we’re here and we’re not going anywhere,” defender Meghan Doherty said.
Looking back at its two previous meetings against Northwestern, Maryland found themselves trailing 3-0 and 4-1 within the first seven minutes of both games. Coming out fast and displaying an all-out attack mentality is an area of focus for the Terps entering this Friday’s matchup.
“I think [getting off to a good start] is a huge piece of it, [Northwestern] can score in bunches,” Reese said. “We need to be able to limit runs, coming out with our foot on the gas from the opening whistle.”
Northwestern has the second-best scoring offense in the country led by its dynamic attack trio of Selena Lasota, Lauren Gilbert and Izzy Scane. On May 5, the trio combined for 11 goals and one assist consistently giving the Maryland defense trouble. Lasota in particular, is one of the best attackers in the country and was named one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award.
“[Our plan] is to play Maryland defense on [Lasota] and defend her just as we would any other team’s top player,” defender Julia Braig said.
Struggling on defense, the Terps also struggled offensively scoring a season-low four goals in the first half in the last meeting. However, in each of the past two games the Terps offense has been firing on all cylinders with consistent off-ball movement and everyone contributing on the score sheet. Although Northwestern does not employ a zone like Stony Brook and Denver, the Terps are pleased with their recent offensive performances.
“We were really moving a lot for each other, that’s something we’ve focused on being dynamic and not so stagnant,” midfielder Jen Giles said. “I think we’re really excited, we wanted another game with [Northwestern] and we’re excited to have that opportunity.”
Despite being the No.1 team in the country, the Terps are entering Friday’s matchup with an additional chip on their shoulder. Filled with senior leadership all over the roster, staying level-headed is a point of emphasis for Maryland. Lacrosse is a game of runs, and the Terps seniors are looking to continue leading by example.
“We definitely talk about keeping our emotions level, there will be ups and downs in games,” Giles said. “I think something really special about this team is we play for each other and we’re able to pick each other up.”
Staying level-headed is easier said than done, playing about 45 minutes from campus at Homewood Field in Baltimore. Playing on the national stage in a local environment, on the same field, against the same team is a unique opportunity for the Terps.
“It’s pretty cool that this Final Four is at Hopkins, we know a lot of our fans, family members and alums will be there,” attacker Caroline Steele said. “It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be crazy, so staying mentally checked in all game long is going to be huge.”
First draw is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Homewood Field with a spot in the National Championship on the line and the winner facing either Boston College or North Carolina on Sunday.
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