James Madison freshman Caitlin McElwee had little experience — with just 5 career goals — before she rolled softly toward the Maryland goal. But she looked completely unfazed flashing her stick and staring down Maryland women’s lacrosse goalie Emily Sterling.
McElwee caught the pass and extended her arms away from the closing defender, flicking a shot that bounced up and over Sterling.
The tally marked the fifth straight James Madison goal and the second straight Maryland season to end in a comeback postseason defeat after last year’s Final Four loss to Boston College last where it surrendered four unanswered goals in the final seven minutes in a one-goal defeat.
James Madison topped Maryland in Harrisonburg Sunday, 15-14. The Dukes scored five times in the final 6:21, stunning a Maryland team that led for all but the last 2:04 of the second half.
After making eleven consecutive Final Fours, the Terps have been bounced in the second round twice in the last three years, the quickest exits in coach Cathy Reese’s tenure.
“A tough loss for the Terps. I’m proud of our team’s effort in a game that came down to the wire and really could’ve gone either way. Hurts to lose,” Reese said. “… We had a four-goal lead in the fourth quarter … and then a couple of draws went their way and a couple shots went in and I think you just start to get caught back on your heels.”
James Madison couldn’t have asked for a better start to Sunday’s game. Maryland had a strong first defensive possession, but after over a minute of nothing, Lizzy Fox isolated at the top and got a shot past Emily Sterling after a dodge.
The Dukes added their second score on their second shot less than two minutes later. Tewaaraton finalist Isabella Peterson face dodged to her left hand and couldn’t be denied. It was the start of a monstrous day for Peterson, who scored on seven of her eight shots and added two assists.
But the Terps began to respond from there.
Shannon Smith put the Terps on the board midway through the first quarter, sneaking by the James Madison defender with a cut before catching and finishing off a pass from Eloise Clevenger.
It took over five minutes for Maryland to score again.
The tally came from Shaylan Ahearn, who ran in transition and dodged left before firing a shot across James Madison goalie Kat Buchanan and into the back of the goal. She scored another 35 seconds later off a Chrissy Thomas assist to give the Terps a 3-2 lead with 1:44 left in the quarter.
Maryland couldn’t hold that lead through the quarter, though, as the Dukes evened the game up with 14 seconds left to enter the second tied at three apiece.
The teams were similarly evenly matched in a high-scoring second quarter that featured nine scores. Neither team managed to grab a multi-goal lead at any point and the Terps entered the half with an 8-7 lead.
Kori Edmondson led the Terps with three goals in the quarter. The hattrick came after a quiet previous five previous games where the freshman tallied just four scores on 23 shots.
Peterson scored a pair for the Dukes to secure a hat trick in the first half. After her second gave James Madison a one-goal lead, Hannah Leubecker notched the first of her team-high four goals on the day, sneaking a bounce shot past Buchanan. She’d get her second tally soon after.
Edmondson and Leubecker accounted for all five of the second-quarter goals that carried the Terps to their halftime lead.
While James Madison began the first half hot, it was all Maryland to begin the second.
Libby May scored her first goal of the day at the 12:53 mark in the third quarter before Fox answered less than 30 seconds later. That would be the only Dukes score of the quarter as the Terps’ defense clamped down.
Peterson answered to halt the Terps’ momentum.
The James Madison star came screaming through the middle. Though the Maryland defense collapsed around her, she finished through the contact and drew a yellow card.
The goal counted and James Madison kept possession because of the penalty. Peterson scored her fifth of the day with a player up to cut the Terps’ lead to two.
But Maryland fended off the Dukes with two quick goals from Chrissy Thomas and Libby May that pushed the lead to 14-10 with 9:18 on the clock.
Peterson began the Dukes run by scoring off a free position chance with under seven minutes remaining. Freshman Maddie Epke added another score less than a minute later.
The teams had traded pairs of goals before but this time was different. Maryland failed to score again while James Madison notched three more to win.
“Only one team’s season ends in a win at the end of the day, so it’s tough,” Reese said. “.We just talked about how this can’t define our growth this season. We have gone through a lot … I’m grateful for every minute that we’ve had to spend together because they’re all just amazing people.”