Right out of the opening draw control of the second half, the ball found its way into Hannah Leubecker’s possession. The sophomore attacker has been clinical all season, and with a trip to the Big Ten tournament semifinals on the line, she was no different.
Leubecker took a set-up from Brindi Griffin and dunked one into the net from right in front of the cage, notching her 50th goal of the season. The Terps’ leading goalscorer was electric against Michigan, amassing six goals and leading a red-hot Maryland offense to a 16-13 win.
“It’s so much fun when you’re playing in an offense like that where we’re executing, everybody’s going as hard as they can and we were finishing our shots,” Leubecker said. “That’s what we’ve been looking to do all season and that’s what we’ve been working toward.”
The Terps turned in their best half of lacrosse of the entire season in the opening period and rode it to an important win and a spot in the next round of the tournament.
Tied up through the first 11 minutes, Brindi Griffin snuck from behind the cage and slotted a shot by the Michigan keeper to break the stalemate.
That goal started one of the best runs Maryland has had all season, scoring eight straight goals. Leubecker, who already notched an early goal, kept the run going with a rocket of a side-arm shot to make it 4-2.
Leubecker, who was named to the All-Big Ten first team earlier Thursday, dominated in the opening half with five goals, three of them coming on free position shots. The Wolverines spent most of the half attempting to double-team her, but she couldn’t be denied.
“She’s gained experience as she’s gone all season long,” coach Cathy Reese said. “Hannah was still able to find those holes which, to me, shows significant growth.”
The Terps’ offense was rolling in the middle portion of the first half, and it wasn’t just Leubecker. Fellow sophomore Libby May notched a hat trick, finishing on a Brindi Griffin link-up and scoring back-to-back goals in the latter part of the period.
Hannah Warther was silent during the majority of the half, but found her spot to shine in her first Big Ten tournament as a starter.
Finding herself isolated on the near side of the field, she started charging toward the heart of the defense, before dodging back to the outside. The senior ran past her defender, right up to the keeper and punched a goal into the net.
Leubecker put the finishing touches on a dominant half, scoring her fifth goal with three seconds left on the clock, breezing a free position past the Wolverine’s keeper.
Maryland boasted six different goal-scorers in the half, taking a 12-3 lead going into the locker room.
“We really took our time and got all on the same page. We really were executing, we were finishing our shots, our free positions, we were ramming them in the back of the net. We weren’t hesitant, we just played lacrosse.”
Leubecker scored that goal to open the half, but the Terps’ offense would slow down from there.
A few good saves from Michigan keeper Mariah Sweeney and errant shots by Maryland opened things up for Michigan to make its own run.
Nadine Stewart, who had five total goals in the teams’ first two meetings, was able to put one of the Wolverines’ four consecutive goals past keeper Emily Sterling.
Shaylan Ahearn stopped the bleeding with a free position shot. She appeared to injure herself during the score, but she would return later in the half.
Michigan began to break down the Maryland lead further, giving the Terps flashbacks of a few of their close games this season.
“I don’t have any excuses for it, it wasn’t good enough,” Reese said of the second half, where her squad was outscored 10-4. “I thought we did a really good job on offense of controlling the tempo and finding openings, but then we didn’t finish.”
A late shovel-goal from Warther right in front of the cage halted much of the momentum the Wolverines had built up. Maryland outlasted the burst of offense from Michigan and got themselves to the Big Ten semifinals on the back of an incredible first half.