Maryland women’s lacrosse clawed its way back into the game for a second time.
After finding themselves down four at halftime, the Terps went into the second period swinging, erasing the deficit in six minutes. But as the second half began to play out, Maryland found itself in an even bigger hole, sitting seven goals down with just under nine minutes to play.
In a miraculous run led by Hannah Leubecker’s three goals in the final five minutes, the Terps cut the lead down to two. Against all odds, it seemed coach Cathy Reese’s squad might be able to salvage their last game of the season.
But with limited time remaining, Maryland was unable to match the dynamic Rutgers offense that kept pulling away, losing 16-14. It was the first time the No. 11 Terps lost to the No. 24 Scarlet Knights in program history.
“We had spurts where we did things really well and then long droughts where we didn’t,” Reese said. “We decided to turn it on in the last seven or 10 minutes of the game, but that was too little, too late.”
Maryland started stronger than ever on the attacking end, putting away three consecutive free position shots. Shaylan Ahearn was the first to do so, charging down the middle of the attacking area to slot a goal past Rutgers goalie Sophia Cardello. Brindi Griffin would follow up with two of her own.
Griffin completed her hat trick four minutes later, her fourth consecutive game with at least three goals.
“I need our group to bring that kind of energy and intensity to a whole 60 minutes,” Reese said.
The Terps were rolling on offense, but the Scarlet Knights weren’t going away easily. Marin Hartshorn proved an issue for Maryland, just like in the first meeting of the two squads when she recorded three goals and five assists.
The junior captain scored the opening goal of the game and proceeded to be a threat in all aspects of the attacking end, scoring, setting screens and feeding her teammates. She would amass two goals and three assists by the end of the game.
Hartshorn’s second goal, a quick response from Griffin’s third score, would start a six-goal run for Rutgers which saw six different scorers find the back of the net.
Meanwhile, the Terps’ offense came to a complete standstill. Maryland didn’t score for the final 20:45 of the first half, the second consecutive game it recorded a 20-plus-minute scoreless streak.
After a slow start, Cardello became a rock for the Scarlet Knights, registering five saves in the period. After the 3-for-3 start on free position chances, the Terps failed to convert on five straight chances and found themselves down 8-4 at the half.
But Maryland roared to life to start the second period. Two free position goals from Grace Griffin and a bouncer from Leubecker that snuck past Cardello brought the Terps within two.
“We had our own little scoring run there,” Reese said. “We obviously need to find a way to answer when goals are scored against us and then continue to move forward and keep the intensity up.”
Brindi Griffin’s fourth goal, a free position out of a Rutgers timeout, brought the teams level at nine apiece. Maryland rubbed out a four-goal disadvantage in just six minutes.
However, the Terps quickly found themselves in another hole.
With a plethora of Scarlet Knights finding space, Rutgers tallied seven consecutive goals, making its path to a victory seem more certain.
The offense was flowing for the Scarlet Knights, while the Terps struggled to hold possession and finish past Cardello. She continued her strong outing for most of the second period, posting 10 total saves in the game.
Maryland finally broke its second 20-minute scoreless streak of the day on a free position from Leubecker. Ahearn followed it up with another goal as the Rutgers lead slowly began to shrink. Eleven seconds later, Leubecker found the back of the net again.
Ahearn and Leubecker each tacked on another goal to close the gap to two with just over one minutes left. But the lead ultimately proved too large to overcome for Maryland, as the Scarlet Knights defeated the Terps for the first time in program history.
”We knew we needed to put the ball away,” Leubecker said. “We knew we needed to create opportunities and at that point we had figured out how to move the ball on offense … that was huge in this game.”