With a minute left in the opening half, No. 9 Maryland women’s lacrosse seemed to have pulled themselves back into its game with No. 14 Penn State.
The Terps had overcome one of the slowest offensive starts all season to cut into a Nittany Lions lead, only sitting four goals behind.
Then Kristin O’Neill stepped in. The freshman linked up with Quinn Nicolai for a goal followed quickly by one of her own, devastating Maryland as the teams went back to the locker room.
A sluggish start on both ends of the field for the Terps (6-4) left them unable to counter a Penn State (4-6) six-goal run in the first half. It separated the squads for the remainder of the game as Maryland dropped its third game in four outings, 16-9.
“Not a good day for the Terps,” coach Cathy Reese. “Just disappointed in our effort, disappointed in our performance today.”
O’Neill amassed five goals and one assist, leading the Nittany Lions to a dominant win. But the home team had contributions from across the board — something it emphasized in an early first half run.
Mary Muldoon and Sophia Triandafils each notched two goals in the run by Penn State, finding lots of open space in front of the Maryland goal. O’Neill was the star of the opening period, as the four-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week accounted for three goals and an assist.
Brindi Griffin was the one to ignite the little offense the Terps had in the first half, first finding Catie May for the opening Maryland goal. A 14-minute scoring drought ensued, a result of unforced turnovers and being outworked by the Nittany Lions on ground balls.
Griffin ended the period with two free position shot conversions in the final 10 minutes that totaled three goals in the half for the Terps.
“We’re not focused on the score so when we did get down by five goals, we’re not focused on that,” Griffin said. “Just worrying about the next play and how we’re working hard together and what we can do.”
After pulling the deficit back to four on Griffin’s second free position goal, Maryland looked to have weathered the storm and would have the chance to regroup at the half. However, the Nittany Lions didn’t take their foot off the gas, finding two more goals in the final minute of the period.
The Terps diversified their scoring in the early stages of the second half. Catie and Libby May connected for a goal they’ve replicated plenty of times, as Catie sat behind the cage waiting for the run of her sister.
Hannah Leubecker, who has been held to just two goals since setting a Maryland record for goals in eight games, found the back of the net on a feed from Grace Griffin.
Despite a few early goals from the Terps, Penn State was always there to respond to bursts of offense from Maryland and keep them from making a run.
Muldoon and O’Neill each added two more goals down the stretch, but it was a full team effort from the Nittany Lions as seven different players found the back of the net.
The Terps made a last ditch effort to overcome a double-digit deficit, scoring three goals in two minutes off the backs of Libby May, Leubecker and Julia Hoffman, getting her first goal of the year. But Maryland waited too long to make its run.
“We had a spurt there for maybe the last six minutes of the game where we actually dodged hard and when we did we created opportunities,” Reese said. “But instead we decided to wait 55 minutes into the game before we did that.”
With this loss, the Terps have been swept in the season series by Penn State, a tough result after never having lost to the Nittany Lions before 2021.
“We’re so far in the season and we’re lacking consistency still,” Reese said. “That’s not good enough for where we want to be as a program and where we want to be as a team this season.”