Among Maryland women’s lacrosse players, the anticipation of the 2021 season was monumental. Every player on the squad had their season cut short in 2020. But Lizzie Colson had it end twice.

The first was while training for Team USA in June 2019, when she suffered an ACL injury that would spoil her chances at helping the Terps defend their national championship.

But she remained around the squad, coaching from the sidelines and helping out where she could. Then when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, that season was gone, too.

Colson brushed off a 637-day hiatus from competitive play to turn in a solid effort for Maryland in its season-opening loss to Penn State. Now that the former All-American has shown she can still hang with the best in the league, she has the task of elevating and educating an inexperienced defensive unit.

“It felt so good,” Colson said with a smile her face mask couldn’t hide. “It felt awesome to put the uniform back on and just get out there and run around.”

[Catie and Libby May are grateful to share the field again for Maryland women’s lacrosse]

If there were any concerns that Colson would be rusty in her return to the Terps’ lineup, they were quickly dashed. In the opening 10 minutes of Sunday’s game, the senior defender quickly closed down an opposing attackers’ run at the cage, forcing her first of a career-high four turnovers on the day.

Coach Cathy Reese lauded Colson’s return, unsurprised by how quickly she slotted into the team again, making plays all over the field and playing a key role in Maryland’s transition game.

“Somehow the ball always ends up in her stick,” Reese said. “I wish I could’ve done that when I was her age.”

Colson’s technical performance on the field looks as strong as it did when she was picked as a back-to-back All-American her sophomore and junior years. And as she steps further into her role as a captain, she’s expected to uplift her fellow defenders.

Against the Nittany Lions, Colson lined up next to an inexperienced group. Maddie Sanchez, Tori Barretta and Kacy Hogarth accounted for just eight total starts despite being a junior, senior and freshman respectively.

[Second half comeback falls short as Maryland women’s lacrosse loses to Penn State, 15-13]

However, Reese and players alike have said that Colson’s play, constant communication and encouragement sets an example other Terps want to replicate.

“She’s just a hustler, she goes so hard,” fellow captain Grace Griffin said. “It just makes everyone want to be better.”

The one area Colson wasn’t seen as much as expected was on the draw circle, unable to tally a draw control against Penn State. Reese indicated in the preseason that Colson would be a key force on the draw this season. However, as Colson leans back into competitive play, the obligation was ceded to Griffin and Shaylan Ahearn, who won 23 of 29 draws.

Colson said she remains confident in the progress the team has shown in practice, echoing Reese that the team is always aiming to be better than the day before.

But, for someone like Colson, who can count her losses at Maryland on one hand, she recognizes the work ahead.

“It was eye-opening,” Colson said. “We have a lot of time to grow and a lot of time to learn.”