Maryland women’s lacrosse’s 2023 season ended earlier than in years past.
The one-goal loss was all too familiar to the Terps, who outshot James Madison by 10 and put five more shots on goal than their opponents. But 12 turnovers, three in the fourth quarter, derailed Maryland’s chance at back-to-back Final Four appearances.
The miscues in front of goal last year created coach Cathy Reese’s guiding principle — “Smart Terps” — for No. 9 Maryland’s experienced attack.
The Terps’ biggest need for improvement comes in goal scoring. Maryland shot 42 percent last year, the fourth-worst mark in the Big Ten, and ranked 43rd in the country in scoring offense with 12.86 goals per game.
Reese knows her offensive unit is still a “work in progress” ahead of Friday’s season opener against Saint Joseph’s. But even her lingering doubts include optimism.
“We’re definitely not where we want to [be], where we need to be or want to be at this point,” Reese said. “But that’s kind of a cool thing too, because we have so much room to grow.”
Maryland brings back eight of its nine attackers from last year. Those players combined for more than 170 goals, 61 percent of the Terps’ goal tally from the 2023 campaign.
Libby May and Hannah Leubecker lead the attack in their fifth years at the program. May led the team with 62 goals while Leubecker had 40, her lowest mark since freshman year.
Leubecker played with a lingering injury for most of the 2023 season and missed two games. Now, she may be ready to unlock her effective dodging abilities.
“She’s such an explosive player. So fast, big for us in transition and a great leader on the field,” Reese said of Leubecker. “Good dodger, and so you have her back on the field and we just become a more difficult team to defend.”
Eloise Clevenger returns for her senior year following a 73-point season, the most on the team. Senior Chrissy Thomas adds 53 more. The Terps hope to meld all of their pieces into a cohesive offense.
The team builds confidence through repetitions and figuring out what works in practice so they increase their shot percentage in games, Leubecker said.
Maryland also brings back goal scorers in its midfield.
Kori Edmondson led all midfielders last year with 47 points and 41 goals. Fifth-year Shaylan Ahearn and senior Shannon Smith combined for 40 goals.
“A big thing about having vets on the team on offense is that you know what each other likes to do and how everyone operates,” Ahearn said. “You can play to one another’s strengths, and instead of getting in each other’s way on accident, you kind of know how the offense should flow.”
The Terps’ defense still boasts the two-time reigning Big Ten Goaltender of the Year Emily Sterling. Sophie Halus transferred in from Colorado and 2023 Big Ten Defender of the Year Meghan Ball arrived from in-conference foe Rutgers.
But the main focus for Maryland as it tries to wash away last year’s bitter taste is raising its shooting percentage and making smart decisions on attack.
“We have a better and more prepared team this year than we did last, and I think we have more experience,” Ahearn said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to make it so that we don’t have a repeat, and we go hopefully the furthest that we have.”