Before Eloise Clevenger can find a cutting Libby May, Hannah Leubecker can make a dodge to dust her defender or Kori Edmondson can bulldoze her way to the net, Maryland women’s lacrosse needs the ball.
Thanks to an elite draw control unit, with senior midfielder Shaylan Ahearn front and center, the Terps have the ball quite a lot — a big reason why they’re averaging nine more shots per game than their opponents.
Maryland outdrew the Buckeyes 19-10 in Saturday’s victory over Ohio State. It’s an impressive disparity, though not out of the norm for Maryland.
Eight came from Ahearn, who pushed her draw control season total to 103. She became just the third Terp in program history to post multiple seasons with over 100 draw controls, joining Taylor Cummings and Kali Hartshorn.
Ahearn’s draw dominance has been an instrumental part of Maryland’s success. She’s established herself as one of the team’s standouts.
“I honestly had no idea I was anywhere near 100 on the season — it means the world — I’ve grown up watching this program and wanting to be a part of it,” Ahearn said. “They’re people that I’ve looked up to for so long and wanted to be just like, so definitely being up there with them means a lot to me.”
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The senior captain currently sits fourth in all-time draws with 285 and is just 39 away from Lizzie Colson’s 324, who’s tallied the third most in program history. And with Ahearn planning to exercise her fifth year of eligibility to return for the Terps next year, she’ll look to climb the list further.
But it’s not just the draw controls that Ahearn comes out with herself. Part of her success stems from the chemistry she’s built with her teammates on the circle — namely, Abby Bosco, who has 68 draw controls this year.
As a team, Maryland’s draw control percentage of 62.8 ranks second best in the nation, and the Terps are averaging 6.8 more draw controls per game than their opponents. They’ve lost the draw control battle in just one of their 15 games and had a double-digit margin in five.
“[The draw] is one of the little things, when you win the draw, it starts that offense,” Bosco said. “I think Shay has been doing a phenomenal job, our communication is so good, and there’s so much trust there.”
As Ahearn and Bosco developed chemistry, Ahearn also earned the trust of coach Cathy Reese.
Ahearn notched 13 draw controls for Maryland in its 16-12 win over Penn, where the Terps outdrew the Quakers 23-9.
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But Reese was just as impressed with how Ahearn and the rest of the draw unit performed as she was with the numbers themselves.
“We started off 0-2 in the first couple draws and I think that shows how great Shay is,” Reese said. “She’s able to make adjustments based on what she’s seeing from her opponents, and then find ways to come up with it … she did an outstanding job.”
Ahearn has become an offensive threat as of late, too. After just three points in Maryland’s first seven games (three goals, zero assists), Ahearn has tallied 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists) in the last eight.
What those numbers don’t show is all the goals Maryland was able to add from extra possessions created by Ahearn — who has firmly set herself apart as one of the most prominent draw specialists in Maryland history.