Late in the third quarter, Maryland had already begun to break away but still looked to add the exclamation point.
On the Terps’ possession, Libby May caught a crisp pass inside from Eloise Clevenger and then finished for the fifth time of the afternoon.
May’s goal was part of an explosive third quarter that the Terps’ used to put away the Gators for the second time this season.
No. 2 Maryland once again had no issues with No. 7 Florida, knocking them off, 18-5 and advanced to its first Final Four since 2019.
“We knew this was going to be a battle, but I’m really proud of our effort today,” head coach Cathy Reese said.
Victoria Hensh induced roars from the Maryland faithful as she buried the game’s opening goal. After the next draw, Florida’s Emma LoPinto sparked an immediate response and scored.
The Terps’ offense came up short after failing to score on its next possession.
While Florida attempted to clear, Clevenger knocked the ball loose. Maryland began an odd-man break, which led to Hannah Leubecker having a free lane at the cage. Leubecker’s shot dinged off the post and into the stick of a Florida defender.
After a Gator yellow card, Aurora Cordingley handed the Terps’ the lead, scoring from behind the net.
“When Hannah was hitting the pipe a couple times or missing a shot, it didn’t matter for us,” May said.
Leubecker nearly gave the Terps a two-goal lead, but her shot struck the post for a second time. Florida’s Danielle Pavinelli found an opening on the ensuing transition and scored the game’s tying goal.
Maryland’s final possession of the first concluded with another Cordingley score, giving them another one-goal lead after one.
Maryland struggled on the draw control early. Through the first seven, the Gators’ won six. However, the Terps still were able to extend their lead to two, thanks to May’s score.
Maryland’s lead extended to as many as three, but Emily Heller found the back of the net, ending the Terps’ run.
It only took 36 seconds for May to respond with her second goal of the day and increase the lead to three once more.
“We know that if we focus on us, and play our game, the outcome will take care of itself,” May said.
Florida had one more chance before the half, but Maryland’s defense stalled the Gators on offense, forcing their second shot clock violation.
“I think our defense did such a good job,” Emily Sterling said. “Communicating to each other and taking away what Florida wanted to look at.”
Maryland held a three-goal advantage at the break.
After hitting the post multiple times in the first half, Leubecker broke the ice and scored on each of the Terps’ first two possessions.
Maryland’s new found draw control success helped maintain the advantage. After losing six of the first seven, Maryland pulled off seven draw control wins in a row.
Maryland looked to break away, but Florida was reluctant to take the pressure off.
After scoring once, the Gators’ offense came down looking for more. Big Ten Defender of the Year Abby Bosco knocked the ball loose and started a Maryland fast break.
The break forced a free-position shot, which May buried for her third goal of the afternoon.
Hensh then notched a hat trick of her own, scoring on a play that left Florida’s goalie Sarah Reznik discombobulated as she pleaded to officials for a crease violation call.
“You can see when [Hensh] scores, the energy that she brings,” Reese said.
Goals by May and Cordingley pushed the Terps ahead by eight in the third quarter.
At the end of the third, Leubecker scored, making her the fourth Terp to have at least three goals in the game.
Maryland outscored Florida 8-1 in the third quarter and the Terps held a ten-goal advantage heading to the final quarter.
“Credit to [Ahearn] on that…She came away with 11 draw controls on the day, and she’s been playing out of her mind in the center circle these last few games,” Reese said.
In the game’s final period, Maryland continued to find success on the offensive end.
The Terps’ success allowed for goalie Emily Sterling to head to the bench early and rest.
When the clock struck triple zeros, Maryland began to celebrate as they advanced to the Final Four.
“It’s something we’ve all dreamed of ever since we were younger,” May said. “We’ve seen the history of it and just being able to be a part of it finally, it just feels unreal.”