Cathy Reese has applauded her team for winning tight-knit games where it hasn’t performed to its highest standard. The skill is important, especially in the playoffs, when winning ugly still means you get to advance.
Maryland women’s lacrosse shot just 33 percent during Saturday’s Big Ten tournament quarterfinal. But because of elite play in the draw circle and a ten-save performance from Emily Sterling, the Terps prevailed against Ohio State in an 11-7 victory at SECU Stadium.
The win sends the second-seeded Terps to Columbus for a Big Ten semifinal Thursday. Maryland will square off with sixth-seeded Rutgers, who upset third-seeded Johns Hopkins.
“[The] defense I thought played really well, and you guys saw Emily, Emily is phenomenal behind there,” Reese said. “… I do like the looks we’re getting [on offense]… We just need to do a better job of sticking them. I want to be around 50% shooting and if that’s the case, we’re putting away another five goals.”
Reese’s squad opened the game strong. Shaylan Ahearn snatched the opening draw before scoring on the first possession of the game. Ahearn led the Terps in draw controls with eight and tallied her 300th career draw in the winning effort.
“We had a pretty good outing [against Ohio State] last time, but we knew that they were going to come in and fight super hard,” Ahearn said. “… Having Abby [Bosco], Shannon [Smith] and Kori [Edmondson] on my circle with me … they’re boxing out for me, they’re picking up the balls I missed, they’re a big part of the draw.”
Maryland got 16 more draw controls than Ohio State and looked poised for an early offensive explosion. Kori Edmondson followed Ahearn’s tally with her own score 31 seconds later but the Terps attack quickly became sloppy.
The Buckeyes scored the next two goals despite not winning a single draw control until 4:35 remaining in the half thanks to Maryland’s poor ball security. The Terps entered the break with nine turnovers and ended the day with 15.
“[Turnovers] are something we’ve been struggling with all season … as Cathy said, it was a messy game,” attacker Libby May said. “That’s something that we really want to work on and clean up … because that’s what’s gonna separate champions from people that have to end their season early.”
After going scoreless for nine minutes, the Terps were able to get going again, scoring three in less than ninety seconds. But then they again went on a scoring drought, taking nearly eight minutes before scoring again.
Still, Maryland entered halftime with a 7-4 lead.
It won despite its turnover issues because of consistent draw control success and Emily Sterling’s stellar play in goal. Sterling finished the first half with seven saves, including one to rob Jamie Level with under four minutes left in the second quarter.
Sterling’s offense contributed just enough to take down the Buckeyes.
Much of the Maryland scoring success can be credited to Eloise Clevenger, who finished with five assists. Her strong performance against Ohio State came after she set the program’s single-game assist record with eight in the last matchup between the two teams in early April.
But the Terps still continued their offensive inconsistency in a third quarter where they scored on just one of their eight shots — only four of which landed on goal. May was the lone Terp to find the scoresheet in the frame.
She scored a game-high four goals on five attempts, two of which came off feeds from Clevenger.
“It is very exciting to have someone like [Clevenger] that I can kind of be a dynamic duo with,” May said. “… It’s also just great to have her as a threat because it opens up so much for our offense and really just creates another dimension.”
Maryland entered the final quarter up by two. It quickly grew that advantage with a dominant fourth quarter that saw tally seven more shots, four more shots on goal and two more goals than the Buckeyes.
Even though it wasn’t a perfect performance, Reese’s squad moves forward and now is just two wins away from a conference championship with the win.