It took just 31 seconds for Maryland women’s lacrosse to get a feel for the dominant Northwestern attack when Izzy Scane, the nation’s leading scorer, found the game’s first goal less than a minute after it began.
Scane has been able to score at will all season. Her quick start is how most of the Tewaaraton-hopeful’s games have gone for the No. 2 Wildcats (15-1, 6-0 Big Ten). But she was held scoreless over the next 59 minutes, failing to find the net on eight attempts.
Stifling one of the nation’s best scorers for most of the regular season finale was ideal for Maryland (12-5, 4-2 Big Ten). The graduate attacker hadn’t scored less than four goals all season, but even with Scane’s inefficiency, the Terps were unable to come out on top.
Maryland fell to Northwestern, 13-6. The Terps failed to capture the Big Ten regular season title for just the second time since joining the conference with the Wildcats now taking two of the last three crowns.
“I thought our defense did well, we stuck to the game plan and we held a really powerful offense and limited opportunities for them,” coach Cathey Reese said. “I think we just need to do a better job of shooting on the offensive end. … We got some great looks and we got to finish it.”
The Wildcats followed Scane’s initial score with two more goals before Libby May finally collected the Terps’s first score midway through the opening quarter off a dish from Eloise Clevenger.
Just under six minutes later, Shaylan Ahearn found the back of the cage for her first goal of the night. It closed the gap as Maryland’s offense began to find rhythm and fight back from its early deficit.
A Northwestern free position score in the final seconds of the first period put Maryland in a 4-2 hole entering the second, but Ahearn’s momentum was far from halted.
She won the draw to begin the second and cut down the middle, taking advantage of lackadaisical defense while the Terps attack settled into its offensive flow. Chrissy Thomas found Ahearn wide open and put it on the doorstep for her to cut the lead to one.
Ahearn again won the ensuing draw and Thomas quickly found herself on the other end of a dish with a goal to tie the battle at four apiece early in the second quarter.
“I think that it was definitely a momentum boost,” Ahearn said. “ I think we were all super excited and we were kind of in the mindset of ‘Once we get a few good plays going, they’re just gonna keep rolling from there.’”
Unfortunately for the Terps, their end to the first half didn’t translate to the second.
Both teams failed to score in that span, as it was all defense the rest of the way. Emily Sterling had six first-half saves to match Northwestern’s Molly Laliberty. Ahearn added four draw controls and a caused turnover to her two first-half goals.
But the draw control success from Ahearn and the Terps was washed away at the break. Northwestern won each of the first five draws of the second half. That disparity was represented on the scoreboard, where the Wildcats outscored Maryland 9-2 in the second half.
“We struggled on the draw in the second half,” Reese said. “I think we did really well on that in the first half and then in the second half, we just got beat to some balls on the circle. That was tough because we were on defense a lot of the game and Northwestern is a team that generates a lot of shots.”
While Scane wasn’t able to find the back of the net after the first minute, fellow Tewaaraton nominees Erin Coykendall and Hailey Rhatigan and possible Big Ten freshman of the year Madison Taylor combined for 10 of the Wildcats’ goals.
Northwestern shot just 38.2 percent, its lowest mark of the season, but it was able to create far more opportunities than the Terps, particularly in the second half.
Even with Sterling’s 13 saves hindering the Wildcats’ attack, Maryland fired off just six shots to Northwesterns 19 with nine second-half turnovers to boot.
And even when the Terps did have high-quality opportunities, they weren’t able to capitalize. They struggled particularly from the eight-meter line, where Maryland missed all four of its free position attempts.
“We have the opportunity for a whole new week of lacrosse, and I think that we all have a good head on our shoulders,” Ahearn said. “We kind of call [the regular season] our first season. First season is over, moving into Big Ten tournament play. [It’s a] whole new season and we can kind of come out with a fighting mindset.”