There was one teammate Libby May had her eyes on less than two weeks before No. 10 Maryland women’s lacrosse’s 2023 season started: Eloise Clevenger.
“She’s such a talented and smart player, so I’m very excited for her this season,” May said.
The excitement was warranted.
After finishing with the fourth most points for Maryland last year, Clevenger leads the Terps with 47 points — 18 goals and 29 assists. While her vision likely remains her best attribute, it’s far from her only strong suit. Coach Cathy Reese pushed Clevenger to be more aggressive, putting her in different spots to get different looks and more scoring opportunities.
The attacker has capitalized with the second highest shot percentage on the team. After scoring eight goals in the first nine games, Clevenger has 10 in the last four to go with 12 assists.
The first game in that span was an eight-point outing against Rutgers, where Clevenger notched a hat trick and added five assists in a Terps’ win.
“I think [my scores] just came naturally just by having my head up while I’m behind goal and being that threat to either score or to dish that assist out,” Clevenger said. “Sometimes I’ll come around the crease and my teammates are wide open in the middle, so they make it easy for me to be able to feed them inside.”
Sunday’s 13-7 win over then-No. 15 Michigan was Clevenger’s quietest contest of the four-game stretch, with two goals and no assists.
Most of Clevenger’s scores this year have come from behind the cage, where she occasionally wraps around the crease and sneaks shots past the goalie. But on Sunday, both of her scores came from up top.
“She’s good everywhere on the field. She is a great feeder, and she can attack from behind. But she can also catch and score up front — but I can’t play her everywhere at once,” Reese said. “So it’s like okay, how do we change [things up]?”
Both scores were timely as well. Clevenger’s first goal was the Terps’ first of the game, and her second found the back of the net with just 11 seconds remaining in the first half, sending the Terps into the break with momentum.
That tally came when Clevenger received a pass 20 yards out with 16 seconds on the clock. A hesitation move and a dodge gave her a step on the Wolverine defender. From five yards out and on the right hashmark, Clevenger fired a missile past the Michigan goalie in the upper left shelf.
Her first goal came off of an assist from Jordyn Lipkin, and it looked like a mirror image of several May scores throughout the year Clevenger assisted on.
Michigan’s defense got lost in traffic as Clevenger crept up just in front of the crease. She extended her arms to call for a pass and tapped the feed in with a quick stick.
It’s no surprise the Clevenger-May connection has been a big part of Maryland’s offense — the two were the top returning assisters and scorers respectively and remain for the Terps this year. Twelve of Clevenger’s assists set up Libby May’s goals.
But even after a win at then-No. 7 Florida where Clevenger tallied five assists — four to May — Reese said she didn’t want to use Clevenger exclusively behind the goal moving forward.
Clevenger, who usually is matched up against the opponent’s top crease defender, has the ability to draw a defender away to improve spacing and open things up for teammates by playing all over the field.
With that impact, Reese’s squad has yet another layer that can make game planning for it a nightmare.
“She has the ability to make big plays and to attack from different spots,” Reese said. “We’re going to keep doing that this year and keep putting her in different positions to be dangerous.”