Maryland women’s lacrosse play Drexel at 5 p.m. on Friday in Harrisonburg, Va, the Division I Women’s Lacrosse Committee announced Sunday night. If the Terps win, they’ll play the winner of Army’s matchup against seventh-seeded host James Madison.
Coach Cathy Reese’s squad has been accustomed to earning first-round byes or hosting the first two rounds in years past. Neither will happen this year after a 2023 season that’s been far more up-and-down than in years past.
After the Terps 2022 season ended in a one-goal final four defeat, Maryland entered 2023 ranked No. 2 and was put to the test early on. The Terps cruised to a comfortable win in their season opener, but were outclassed in their second game, a 20-11 loss to then No. 4 Syracuse.
And that was just the beginning. Three of Maryland’s next four games were against then-ranked opponents: No. 7 Florida, No. 12 James Madison and No. 9 Denver. All three ended as one-goal contests, with Maryland winning the first and losing the latter two to start the season 3-3.
Maryland went on to win its next nine games before ending its regular season with two consecutive losses to Penn State and then-No. 2 Northwestern — who Maryland fell to again in the conference title game on Saturday, 14-9.
[Maryland women’s lacrosse loses Big Ten title game to Northwestern, 14-9]
Maryland’s six losses are tied for the most it’s had entering the national tournament since Reese has been at the helm. It’s tied with the 2021 team — the only team in Reese’s tenure that didn’t reach the tournament’s quarterfinals and one that broke a streak of 11 straight final four appearances.
Still, the Terps are the favorite over Drexel, who the Terps defeated 15-9 on Feb 21. The Dragons ended the season 12-5 and their loss to Maryland was their only defeat at home.
No matter who Maryland faces, Reese pinpointed their biggest opponent after her team’s Big Ten championship game loss: themselves. The Terps’ issues stem from struggles finishing opportunities. Maryland hasn’t shot above 50 percent since April 8, averaging 9.6 goals per game on 34.3 percent shooting since then.
Those are stark dips from a strong first 15 games where the Terps averaged 14 goals per game on 45.3 percent shooting.
“[We] have a minimum of one game and a maximum of five, and we just take it one at a time, no matter who we play. I think right now our biggest opponent is ourselves,” Reese said. “I think this is a challenge for us, when I’m talking about shooting 50 percent, [if] we shoot 50 percent that’s 16 goals tonight, [and the result’s] a little different.”