Maryland women’s lacrosse’s defender Meghan Ball collected a ground ball in the Terps’ defensive zone before turning upfield, looking to complete a successful clear in the third quarter.

The graduate student wove through two Northwestern players and dodged another before entering the midfield space. But the Wildcats’ pressure didn’t stop — attacker Lindsey Frank trail checked Ball’s stick, jarring the ball loose. Northwestern recovered it.

No. 1 Northwestern’s persistent press prevented No. 2 Maryland from advancing into its attacking zone and settling into an offensive rhythm. The Terps committed a season-high 22 turnovers and scored just twice in the second and third quarters in a 17-9 loss to the Wildcats on Saturday.

“Northwestern is tough. They’re physical,” Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. “We just kind of watched our teammates a little bit too much today rather than helping each other out.”

The Terps’ attack was lethal in the first quarter, scoring four goals on five shots. Their offense routinely created opportunities through individual playmakers as three of those goals came unassisted, including attacker Hannah Leubecker’s tally — she charged in from the top of the eight-meter arc all alone before firing a low shot into the net.

[No. 2 Maryland women’s lacrosse can’t contain top-ranked Northwestern in 17-9 loss]

But that attacking creativity and individual spark vanished in the ensuing quarters. A top-20 nationally ranked Northwestern defensive unit forced turnovers and used its speed and press to quiet Maryland’s attack.

The Terps’ first two possessions of the second quarter ended with turnovers. They attempted to find space inside the eight-meter arc, but the Wildcats’ defense consistently slid to cover any open areas. Maryland couldn’t advance to the front of the cage either time before losing possession on bad passes.

When the Terps did manage to gain a step on a Northwestern defender — like attacker Chrissy Thomas did in the second quarter — a group of Wildcats quickly swarmed the Maryland player in possession to knock it free. The Terps’ attack couldn’t find space or success when venturing near the goal line.

“It was just that hesitancy that we were playing with,” midfielder Shaylan Ahearn said. “We got to just attack the pressure instead of kind of backing off a little bit.”

Mid-game lulls aren’t a new problem. Maryland scored just twice in second and third frames against Ohio State and failed to net a goal in the second quarter against Michigan, Rutgers and Syracuse. It committed double-digit turnovers in each of those games.

[The Q-Collar gives two Maryland women’s lacrosse players an extra layer of protection]

The Terps’ attack created successful opportunities when it played with pace. They did so in the first quarter on Saturday, but faltered afterward. Northwestern was able to take a commanding lead after Maryland combined for two goals and 11 turnovers in the second and third quarters and never looked back into its rout of the Terps.

Maryland is still in contention for the Big Ten regular season championship despite its first conference loss, but no longer controls its own destiny with the title on the line. With two crucial Big Ten tests coming up for the Terps, they must limit their offensive indecisiveness and turnovers to bounce back from a loss to the best of the conference.
“It’s tough to win games in the Big Ten,” Reese said. “We’ve got to bring it everyday, and there’s no time for hesitation out there.”