The Maryland women’s lacrosse team is done playing games. At least, against themselves.
After a semester of fall practice and a month of what coach Cathy Reese dubbed “settled team play,” the Terps are ready to compete. Led by nine returning starters and a strong senior class, Maryland opens the season Saturday against George Mason.
And despite losing key contributors from last season’s NCAA semifinal squad, a talented midfield core will be pivotal early as the Terps perfect a new offensive scheme.
“We’re looking forward to playing someone other than ourselves so we can find out where we are at this point in the year,” Reese said.
In early-season matchups, the Terps will work to adjust to a new offensive style. Maryland plans to utilize a fast attack, capitalizing on the speed of midfielders to create scoring chances. New systems come with potential risks, though.
“A big piece for us this year is to limit turnovers,” Reese said. “We’re talented on both ends of the field, and we’re going to transition and play a fast game throughout.”
The quicker system relies on the midfield. Adding graduate transfer Erica Evans to the duo of Jen Giles and Grace Griffin gives Maryland a dynamic midfield with a potentially frightening amount of speed.
Evans could be the missing piece for the Terps. The All-American at Canisius College tore her ACL prior to the 2017 season. She came to Maryland for fall practice just under a year out of surgery, but feels she has settled into the system well.
“It’s been so great playing with such talented people,” Evans said. “It helps step up my game, and I’m hoping to do the same for them.”
After being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Griffin was also pegged a preseason All-American honorable mention. With the loss of three starters, including all-time leading goalscorer Megan Whittle, there are expectations that Griffin will contribute more on offense. Her philosophy, however, is to not stretch herself too thin.
“New season, new year,” Griffin said. “I just need to make sure I’m implementing everything I learned last year and using that to my advantage.”
While the midfield is in place, the Terps will have to make up the 119 goals they lost with the graduation of Whittle and Taylor Hensh. Senior attacker Caroline Steele was Maryland’s second-highest goalscorer last season, and is projected to be the No. 1 option this campaign.
Adjusting to a new scheme, although not exactly comfortable, is nothing outside the norm for Steele.
“Every single year I’ve been here we’ve lost some of the best players in college lacrosse,” Steele said. “We’ve always bounced back.”
The last time Maryland played George Mason, bouncing back wasn’t an issue. In March 2011, a midweek contest brought a 21-2 victory for the Terps. Maryland went on a 17-0 run in the first half alone.
This time could be slightly different, partially because of the venue. All weekend home games will be played at Maryland Stadium this season as the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex gets its turf replaced.
A new stadium and fresh start welcome the Terps for the 2019 season. While the team will ultimately be judged by wins, the early-season plans is to measure success by quality of performance.
“We’ll see where we start, and then look at what we need to work on from there,” Reese said.