Maryland and Northwestern’s first meeting of the 2023 season was a one-sided affair where a stagnant Terps attack posted a season-low six goals. Midfielder Shaylan Ahearn said things would look different in their rematch in the Big Ten Championship.
She said it’d be a battle between the two heavyweights and she was right. Saturday’s tight-knit game was back-and-forth for much of the way. But when the final horn sounded, the Wildcats were victorious once again.
Northwestern defeated Maryland women’s lacrosse in Columbus, 14-9, to bring the conference tournament trophy to Evanston and end the Terps’ conference title defense.
The first half saw three lead changes and five ties. The game felt like it would be similarly close throughout — but Ahearn aggravated an already-sprained ankle in the first half that ended up causing a shake-up in the draw circle.
Northwestern was just one of two teams to win the draw battle against Maryland in the regular season, but the Terps took nine of the first 11 draw controls before the Wildcats took the last four of the half. Maryland won the draw battle, 14-13. But that largely came due to early domination — Northwestern won six of seven draw controls in the third quarter and surged to victory.
Coach Cathy Reese was pleased with the performances of Hailey Russo and Shannon Smith. The two filled in while Ahearn, who sat periodically and eventually played strictly in the draw circle, hobbling from there to the sideline and wincing in the process.
Maryland’s struggles to earn draws led it to tally 32 shots to Northwestern’s 41. Reese liked the quality of those shots, but the Terps couldn’t bury them, shooting 28.1 percent.
“We didn’t shoot very well … we need to be able to put away our opportunities when you play a team like Northwestern,” Reese said. “… I do think offensively, we’ve taken a huge step from where we were when we played up in Chicago a couple weeks ago.”
The Wildcats started fast, scoring on their first two possessions. The first was from Elle Hansen less than a minute in and the second came on a Maryland breakdown which left Izzy Scane wide open.
The Terps rebounded, forcing two turnovers before Chrissy Thomas put them on the board with just over eight minutes into the first quarter. It was Maryland’s first make after missing its first five shots.
Thomas then spotted Libby May cutting on the following possession. May catapulted a shot in mid-air to tie the game at two, where the score stayed for the remainder of the first.
Hannah Leubecker got Maryland its first lead a minute into the second quarter by whipping a side-armed bullet into the goal. But the Wildcats answered back and the two teams traded scores, neither establishing a substantial lead as they tied again at five apiece.
A Kate Sites score gave Maryland a 6-5 lead, one it didn’t keep long. Northwestern showed why it’s one of the nation’s best offenses with two quick scores to enter the half up 7-6.
Despite the Wildcats’ prowess, both teams shot inefficiently in the first half. Maryland shot 6-of-18 while Northwestern shot 7-of-23.
The Wildcats’ draw success turned into scores in the second half.
Northwestern won the first draw control of the third quarter. Soon after, Erin Coykendall ripped a shot from the eight-meter line to give the Wildcats the first multiple-goal lead for either team since they went up 2-0.
Coykendall scored another free-position tally to give the Wildcats their first three-goal lead of the night.
Kori Edmondson then answered back with a free position score of in the third quarter, her first and only goal of the day.
It was the only Maryland free position score on five attempts. Northwestern scored on four of its ten attempts from eight meters.
“All of those attackers are just are very good shooters … they shoot it hard, they can put it where they want it,” Reese said. “… We didn’t shoot well in eight meters and they did and that was a big difference in the game.”
Maryland couldn’t capitalize off of the momentum from Edmondson. Northwestern scored seven of the second-half’s 10 goals and earned a lead that was insurmountable for the Terps to overcome.
It was the fifth matchup for the two teams in the title game and ended in Northwestern’s third title. Maryland still leads the conference in tournament championships, with four, but the Wildcats have gotten the best of the Terps lately, winning five of the last six matchups.