Hannah Leubecker had far from a hot start to the season for Maryland women’s lacrosse. After shooting struggles in the first seven games, the senior attacker missed two games with lower body soreness, but returned for the Terps’ conference-opener and made her presence felt.
With eight seconds remaining in the first half, Leubecker got the ball near the right sideline at the 30-yard line and sealed the outside. Two yards out and at the hashmark, a sprinting Leubecker slung it into an air-tight window, finding the top left corner.
It was Leubecker’s fifth shot and fifth goal of the half and game. She finished with five goals on six shots, leading the way for Maryland (7-3, 1-0 Big Ten) as it opened conference play with a 16-8 win over No. 22 Rutgers.
Leubecker turned the page against the Scarlet Knights after shooting just 36.6 percent in her first seven games. She scored on the first possession of the game and then three more times, scoring her fourth goal of the game with 9:44 left in the first period.
“I was excited to get back out there, as soon as I got the green light I knew I was gonna go and I knew I was gonna go hard,” Leubecker said. “[The start was] not something I expected to happen, but because of how everybody else was working, because teammates were setting me up, it just happened.”
[Efficient offense leads No. 11 Maryland women’s lacrosse past Georgetown, 13-4]
The first quarter was a slugfest, with Maryland scoring on seven of its nine attempts in the first 15 minutes and Rutgers scoring on each of its five attempts.
But Maryland put an abrupt stop to the Scarlet Knights’ roll, as Rutgers scored on just three of its 16 attempts the rest of the way. Goalie Emily Sterling recorded 9 saves on the day. The reigning goalkeeper of the year was coming off of her best game of the season, with 15 saves and a 78.9 save percentage against Georgetown.
“[Assistant coach] Lauri Kenis got after our defense out there [after the first quarter], we just we weren’t executing the gameplan, we weren’t doing what we’re supposed to do. It was a tough quarter break at the end of the first quarter and we came out a different team,” Reese said.
The second period looked like a completely different game. The Terps scored just twice, and only got off three shot attempts in the second quarter. Rutgers shot 1-6.
The Terps offense was rejuvenated after the half, scoring five goals in the third to put the game out of reach.
Rutgers adjusted their defense following Leubecker’s hot start, and despite the delay, things eventually started opening up for the rest of the Terps.
[Draw controls and discipline help Maryland women’s lacrosse overcome shooting woes]
“[Leubecker] lit it up when she first went out there, and that kind of ignited the spark that we needed,” Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. “She’s a great shooter, but she just draws a lot of attention. She’s so fast and teams have to pay attention to her and they have to worry about her… bringing her back and having that added dimension I think gives us another look.”
Reese wants the Terps to have a balanced, distributed attack. And once Leubecker got them started, her fellow senior attacker Libby May, freshman midfielder Kori Edmondson and junior Eloise Clevenger all joined in on the fun as well.
Edmondson notched her fifth consecutive hat trick, and May added four goals of her own. Clevenger became the fourth Terp to score a hat-trick, scoring three goals and tallying three assists.
It was the first man-to-man defense Reese and the Terps saw of the season and was also their most efficient shooting day.
Shooting percentage has been an area Reese has expressed displeasure with throughout the season, but that certainly wasn’t the case in Sunday’s victory, where Maryland shot 57.1 percent.
The Terps also continued their success in the draw circle, winning in that column of the stat sheet 19-8 against a Rutgers squad that had a 56.7 draw control percentage entering the day.
It was the 25th matchup between Maryland and Rutgers, and the Terps improved their head-to-head record to 24-1.
Maryland sees Ivy League opponents in its next two games before finishing its schedule with five consecutive conference opponents.
If its performance on Saturday was any indicator of what’s to come, Maryland has a chance to go undefeated in conference play for the seventh time in its eight years as a part of the Big Ten.