With the Big Ten championship on the line, Maryland women’s lacrosse came out swinging against a Northwestern team that has utterly dominated the conference.
The Terps handed the Wildcats their largest deficit of the season early in the opening half and looked primed to give Northwestern its toughest challenge yet — and maybe score the upset in the title match.
However, Maryland learned something the first two times around with the Wildcats and had to learn it again in the championship game.
Izzy Scane is undeniable.
Scane dominated on the offensive end with nine goals as the Terps failed to avenge the 2019 title game, falling 17-12.
“They’re a great offense, they’re hard to defend,” coach Cathy Reese said postgame. “Some of their players just make it really difficult.”
Maryland was unable to stop undefeated Northwestern in the championship game, struggling on the draw control and failing to halt Scane’s effort on the attacking end.
The Terps made an aggressive start as Lizzie Colson won the draw and moved the ball down the field to Libby May, who charged into the attacking area and earned a free position shot. May, who had four goals in the first two rounds of the Big Ten tournament, would slot the chance away and give Maryland an early lead.
The quick score went so well, the Terps did it again. Colson won the second draw, and May found the net again, just over a minute later.
Hannah Leubecker continued the hot streak, catching the Wildcats sleeping off of the draw. She was face-guarded throughout the match with very few opportunities on goal, so she didn’t waste any chances when they appeared.
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Maryland’s leading scorer rifled one past Northwestern goalkeeper Madison Doucette and gave her squad a 3-0 lead.
“We came out on fire, and that was awesome,” Reese said. “The momentum and the energy we had in the first however many minutes of the game was what we want to see and where we want to be.”
Sammy Mueller would halt the run on a free position shot, but May and Brindi Griffin responded, building a four-goal lead, the largest a team has amassed against the undefeated Wildcats all season.
That didn’t sit well with Northwestern, and the best offense in the country roared to life. It scored two goals in under a minute, featuring the first goal of the day by Scane, the nation’s leading scorer.
After eight goals in eight minutes, scoring halted for both sides. It would be almost 10 minutes until either squad would see the net again, but the Terps had plenty of reason to feel good, particularly with how solid their defense was playing.
Colson continued to pad her spot at the top of the nation in caused turnovers, making some key interventions against the Wildcats. But it was goalkeeper Emily Sterling who made the most memorable contributions in her first Big Ten title game.
Invigorated by her first goal, Scane started running circles around the Maryland defense. She made her way past the defender marking her, but Sterling was there, making a point-blank save against the best shooter in the country.
A few minutes later, she made a gutsy call and stepped out of her cage to nab a pass away from an open Erin Coykendall.
“Northwestern is a really, really strong attack, they have some awesome shooters,” Brindi Griffin said. “So for her to come up with some big saves, I’m so proud of her.”
But the Terps could only keep Scane silent for so long.
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What followed some staunch defensive play was a breakdown for Maryland at the hands of Scane. From the 9:00 mark in the first half, to the 28:10 mark in the second half, Scane scored five straight goals.
Her first three goals of the run tied both sides at seven at halftime, but the stalemate wouldn’t last long.
Within 30 seconds of the second period’s start, Scane found the back of the net, giving Northwestern its first lead of the game, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The rest of the Wildcats got involved in stifling the Terps in the second half, extending the streak Scane started to eight straight goals.
Shaylan Ahearn was able to finally stop the offensive explosion after nearly 23 minutes without a goal, chipping one past the keeper. Grace Griffin found her first goal of the day a few minutes later, and Hannah Warther made a tough-angle shot, quickly shrinking the deficit to two goals.
But Scane showed up again and put the dagger in.
She scored two more times in the four minutes following Maryland’s attempt at a comeback. Scane had gone more than 20 minutes without hitting the back of the net, but when the scores started creeping closer, she called game.
Maryland made one last push in the final four minutes, getting scores from Brindi Griffin and Leubecker. But a game-clincher from Scane sent the Terps home without their fourth Big Ten title in hand.
“I’m really proud of the way we played together and it was fun out there,” Sterling said. “We’re all really coming together out there.”