Maryland women’s lacrosse senior attackers Hannah Leubecker and Libby May entered Tuesday shooting a combined 7-for-18 but turned their cold start around, combining to shoot 10-for-16 in the winning effort over Drexel.
The duo are the Terps’ top returning scorers from last year’s squad and led Maryland to victory in a game where it was aggressive, efficient and opportunistic — the antithesis of its loss against now-No. 2 Syracuse four days prior.
“Our team needs that from them. It’s not really anything that was set or looked at, it’s just when the opportunities arose, they took it,” coach Cathy Reese said. “They took advantage of the opportunity, which is what we need them to do.”
The win at Drexel showed the Terps’ significant progress in some areas and significant room for growth in others. With another top 10 matchup looming, as No. 6 Maryland (2-1) plays No. 7 Florida (1-1) Saturday, the Terps’ early season progress will be tested.
Maryland can thank senior midfielder Shaylan Ahearn for securing so many opportunities for the Terps. Ahearn, who’s made a name for herself as one of the top draw specialists in the nation, matched her career high with 14 draw controls and became just the sixth Terp ever to record 200 draw controls.
The correlation between draws and goals became evident right off the bat. Maryland won seven of the first eight draws, with Ahearn accounting for five, and put up an equivalent lead of 7-1 on the scoreboard.
[Libby May shines as No. 6 Maryland women’s lacrosse pushes past Drexel, 15-9]
It took eight minutes for Drexel to get its first possession with the Terps’ draw dominance, and the Dragons weren’t able to register their second shot attempt until there was just 25 seconds remaining in the first period.
If the Terps post anywhere near their numbers against Drexel — winning the draw control battle 20-8, finding the back of the cage in 15 of their 27 shot attempts and capitalizing on five of seven free position shots — it’s hard to imagine a Maryland loss. But putting up comparable numbers on a fellow top 10 team’s field is a big ask.
“I think something that we really wanted to focus on this week offensively was our shooting. Last week, we did not shoot above 50 percent, and that’s something that collectively as a team, we’re always trying to do throughout the whole season,” May said after the victory. “But that was specifically a goal today.”
Ahearn, a team captain, said the offense seemed timid following the Syracuse loss. The Terps certainly hope the conviction with which they played on Tuesday is a sign of the future.
“Our goal this week was one to be more aggressive, more precise and just hungrier for the cage. But I think what … allowed for those opportunities was our offense collectively moving together as a whole,” May said. “I’m already so proud of the progress that we’ve made.”
[Maryland women’s lacrosse’s attack struggled to coalesce in Syracuse loss]
That offense still had parts of its performance it’d like to change — namely increasing its assists, as just five of its 15 goals were assisted, and lessening its 12 turnovers.
Of those 12 turnovers, Drexel caused seven of them. Maryland’s defense caused just two of Drexel’s eight turnovers.
Still, the Terps defense — which is still figuring out how to play as a unit — showed noticeable progress from their 20-11 loss to Syracuse.
“We’re not where we want to be yet, that’s for sure, but we’re getting better,” Reese said. “ But we’ve got to take it to a whole ’nother level and a couple of days, and that’s all we have before we play a really strong offense in Florida.”
Maryland’s defense will have a big test in containing the Gators’ Emma LoPinto and Danielle Pavinelli, while Florida faces the same problem in defending Leubecker and May.
Ahearn has spotted progress on both sides of the ball and thinks the team’s gelling will be evident sooner rather than later.
“I think that the way that we work and gel together is great, that team chemistry is obviously there. And now it’s just finding those opportunities that are given to us and executing,” Ahearn said. “I think that’s something you’re gonna start to see soon, and everything’s going to start to click and we’re going to be that unstoppable team that we know we are.”