As the Maryland women’s lacrosse starters were announced and ran through their human tunnel of teammates to take the field Wednesday, junior attacker Chrissy Thomas’ name was called for the first time.
Thomas didn’t make an appearance in her freshman season and only saw game action five times last year, all of which came in double-digit Maryland wins.
But in the 2023 campaign, Thomas has turned into a major contributor for the Terps, notching the second most assists and fifth most points on the team.
Thomas’ value for Maryland isn’t just that she’s stepped up and improved her game — which she certainly has — but the fact that she’s stepped up into a role that the Terps have been in dire need of.
Maryland didn’t just lose its top scorer with the graduation of Aurora Cordingley, as Cordingley’s 51 assists were a team-best by a wide margin. Eloise Clevenger was second with 31 assists, and already leads the Terps with 47 total points this year.
After Clevenger, though, the 2022 numbers didn’t suggest anyone would fill into the role of a secondary feeder. But Thomas, who had zero goals and one assist prior to this season, has been just that.
She showed so in Wednesday’s 13-12 win over Johns Hopkins.
“Eloise complimented Aurora and now Eloise is role shifting, so she’s kind of the leader back there and now Chrissy is really coming in and complimenting Elle,” coach Cathy Reese said. “Without Elle, you see Chrissy have to step up and make those decisions, and be a leader behind the cage.”
[No. 10 Maryland women’s lacrosse outlasts Johns Hopkins in narrow 13-12 victory]
After beginning the season almost exclusively playing behind the cage, Clevenger had been taking on an expanded role in Maryland’s attack, adding another dimension to the Terps offense. Clevenger would’ve likely had to stay behind the goal had there not been a viable option like Thomas to fill in, failing to maximize Clevenger’s ability to both score and distribute.
The Terps were without Clevenger Wednesday due to a family emergency, and there’s no timetable for a return, a team spokesperson said. With Clevenger’s absence, Thomas served as the primary feeder behind the cage, a role she’ll likely continue in until Clevenger returns.
With Clevenger out, only 57 of Maryland’s 149 assists in 2022 were accounted for by Terps who suited up against Johns Hopkins.
That would be hard to tell by watching the battle of in-state foes, where there were assists on 10 of Maryland’s 13 goals. Thomas led the way with four, all of which came in the first half.
With a goal of her own, Thomas was involved in five of Maryland’s nine first-half scores. Had Thomas and the Terps not played as well as they did in the opening 30 minutes, Johns Hopkins’ 5-0 third quarter run could’ve been costly and handed Reese her first home conference loss in her 16-year career at Maryland.
[No. 10 Maryland women’s lacrosse downs No. 15 Michigan for seventh straight win, 13-7]
It also would have taken the Terps out of the top spot in the Big Ten that they’re currently tied for.
“We worked really hard together. Things were just opening up and working in our favor, and I think Johns Hopkins did a good job of adjusting to us but we figured it out and did a good job in the end,” Thomas said.
That hard work gave Maryland a win, but it’s also clear that Thomas — who has recorded at least one assist in each of her last eight games — put in the work to go from an end of the bench type-player to being a key contributor and at least a secondary feeder.
With Clevenger’s absence Wednesday, Thomas also showed potential as the Terps’ primary distributor.
“She kind of started playing more mid-year … and she’s kind of taken it and run with it and we’re seeing her grow,” Reese said. “The better she is, the more confident she gets, so I think that’s coming with experience … I’m proud of how she’s developing and growing, and [she’s] somebody that came off the bench and earned her opportunity and she’s fighting for it.”