With just over a minute left remaining in regulation and the game tied at 13, Florida and Maryland women’s lacrosse lined up at midfield for the biggest draw control of the game. Whoever secured possession also secured the opportunity to take the match’s final shot.
And as she’s done throughout much of her career, Shaylan Ahearn was the one to come out with the ball.
On the ensuing possession, Victoria Hensh got the ball about 20 meters away from the cage with a crowded bunch of players from both teams near the goal.
Despite the traffic and just 20 seconds to work with, Hensh had tunnel vision — the junior attacker immediately sprinted toward the goal. With a foot on the eight-meter line, she catapulted the ball into the back of the cage.
“The game was on the line and we had planned and we’ve prepared for moments like these,” Hensh said. “We’ve been building up our team chemistry and just practicing the little things every day. Through that, it just built up confidence in each other and in myself … If we go frickin’ hard and do what we’re supposed to, everything will fall into place.”
Her fourth score proved the game-winner as No. 6 Maryland topped No. 7 Florida 14-13 Saturday on the road due to a dominant fourth-quarter rejuvenation.
The Terps scored six goals in the final frame, exceeding their outputs from the middle two quarters combined in scores, shots and shots on goal.
Three of the tallies came from Hensch.
A few minutes before her game-winner, she had given the Terps a 13-12 lead in a somewhat similar manner. She was isolated up top and far away from the goal and attacked the cage. But the Florida defense forced her to roam right and away from the goal. Unfazed and with a Gator glued to her side, she tomahawked her shot into the bottom left corner.
Hensh also scored Maryland’s tenth goal off of a spin move just within the eight-meter line, tying the game up with 12 minutes left after trailing for over a full quarter.
“I loved [Hensh’s] confidence out there,” coach Cathy Reese said. “ Sometimes they weren’t the looks that we were looking for, but it was working. She was playing off of what Florida was giving to us, and she was attacking hard without hesitation.”
The Gators lengthy lead came as the Terps offense dwindled following a strong start, leading 8-4. Maryland (3-1) watched that lead wash away as a 6-0 Florida run put it behind by two with just over nine minutes left in the third period.
Emma LoPinto scored with under nine minutes remaining in the first half to start that run. She scored four goals, almost leading Florida (1-2) to victory.
On top of getting called for three cards in the second and third quarters, forcing Maryland to play with a woman-down, Maryland’s issues stemmed from an abrupt change in draw controls. It led the battle 9-5 until the Gators won five straight and took advantage, putting the Terps in a two-goal hole.
“I think we had some good defensive sequences and then we had some plays where we just fell apart and Florida capitalized,” Reese said. “Anytime you’re a man down against a team that’s very strong offensively, [or] man down period is tough.”
But the Terps ended their scoring doldrums — a 31-minute drought — just in time, with Libby May’s tally with 13:22 left in the game. The score cut the deficit to just one and Maryland erupted from there.
May scored a team-high six goals and recorded a hat trick in the first quarter, notching the final blow with just two seconds left in the frame after rifling a free position shot home. She now leads the team with 15 scores on the season.
Of May’s six goals, two were free positions, and each of the other four was assisted by Eloise Clevenger — the only Terp to register an assist, posting five in the winning effort.
“I’ve had the fortune of playing with Libby the past two-to-three years, and I think we just developed that chemistry,” Clevenger said. “I know her tendencies and what she’s going to do in the middle, and she makes my job, feeding into the middle, very easy because she’s a great finisher.”