Maryland Unlocks Offense in 16-8 Win Over Rutgers


Hannah Leubecker (40) and Libby May (9) combined for nine goals in Saturday's 16-8 win over Rutgers.

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Through Maryland’s first nine games, its defense had — mostly — held firm. Only Syracuse and Florida had managed double-digit goals against Defender U.

But the offense needed to find footing without 2022 Tewaaraton finalist Aurora Cordingley in the mix. The Terps struggled against zone defenses and got off to an uncharacteristic — by Maryland standards — 6-3 start with losses to ‘Cuse, James Madison and Denver.

On Saturday, four Terps netted at least three goals as Maryland took down Rutgers 16-8 in a rematch of last year’s Big Ten title game at SHI Stadium. Hannah Leubecker scored five goals for Maryland (7-3), while Eloise Clevenger posted a team-high six points on three goals and three assists. Libby May finished with four goals, and top freshman Kori Edmondson netted a hat trick.

The Terps’ play in the first 15 minutes marked a role reversal from previous games. It was the defense that started slow. Leubecker provided an early spark, scoring four of the Terps’ seven first-quarter goals. But Rutgers (4-4) kept pace, getting five goals, four of which came from Marin Hartshorn.

“Defensively, we just weren’t on our game plan,” Maryland head coach Cathy Reese said. “We were leaving wide-open looks for Emily [Sterling]. We have a great goalie, but defensively, we have to be better in front of her to let her see the shots we know we want to give up. Rutgers has some dangerous offensive players. We’re well aware of that.”

Hartshorn was one of them. But, like Maryland, Rutgers lost its top goal scorer last year in Taralyn Naslonski, not to mention assists leader Stephanie Kelly. It has faced challenges filling those cleats. Hartshorn rang the bell early against Maryland.

“Hartshorn stepped up. This team really does feed off of her energy,” Rutgers coach Melissa Lehman said. “That really kept us in the game in the first half.”

Hartshorn scored one more in the second quarter, finishing with five goals and one assist. But Maryland’s defense locked in, limiting the Scarlet Knights to three goals the rest of the way while holding Big Ten Midfielder of the Year Cassidy Spilis without a goal for the first time in 2023 (she had one assist).

“We have a lot of people we are looking to step up consistently,” Lehman said. “I feel like today we were looking for someone else to get the ball rolling, and you can’t just rely on one scorer.”

In the second quarter, neither team scored until Libby May broke through on a free position at 4:31. But Hartshorn scored with 17 seconds left in the half and appeared to give Rutgers a chance to take momentum into the break. Then, Leubecker stuck again. After Shaylan Ahearn won the draw, Leubecker cut toward the cage and beat the buzzer with a hard shot from the right side that put Maryland in front 9-6.

“I was telling everyone, ‘We got this. Stay locked in,’” Leubecker said. “Lacrosse is a game of momentum. When you get in that moment where it might shift, you have to take it play by play. If you can come off the next play and not let the play before you affect it, that’s when you can keep the momentum on your side.”

It doesn’t hurt when your draw unit dominates. The Terps won 19 of 27 draws — Ahearn controlled seven, and Abby Bosco controlled six.

“They’re a very good draw unit,” Lehman said. “Ahern does a really good job commanding her circle and strategically getting the ball where she tries to, and they fight hard. At times, Maryland was beating us to 50-50s, unfortunately.”

The offense continued for the Terps early in the second half, with May, Edmondson and Clevenger opening the third frame with goals to open up a six-goal Maryland lead at 12-6. The sides traded goals to end the frame. Ashley Moynahan and Katie Buck scored for Rutgers, and Edmondson and Clevenger netted goals for the Terps. Edmondson, a rookie out of McDonogh, now has five-straight games with three or more goals.

“She has not played scared or timid,” Leubecker said. “She plays with an intensity. When you see someone going that hard, you want to go that hard for them.”

The Terps kept the intensity in the opening minute of the final frame. May’s goal 19 ticks into the period gave Maryland a 15-8 lead, and Clevenger’s third of the day made it 16-8. The scoring output was a departure for Clevenger, who typically distributes. The junior entered the game with eight goals and a team-high 17 assists.

“I want her to go to goal more,” Reese said. “When she does, you can see how good she is. She’s a great shooter, a great finisher. She’s someone we put in that behind role because she does see the field so well, but she’s also excellent inside and up top. The more that we can get her involved in things attacking the cage, the more dangerous we are as an offense.”

Maryland has rattled off four straight wins since losing back-to-back games, and Reese called her team a work in progress.

“We needed to find our own way,” Reese said. “Aurora was such a dangerous threat for us. We have had to learn a lot about ourselves and really break things down. Now, it’s like, bring it on. We’re ready. If you want to play us in a zone, we’ll take it.”

A light schedule for the next 10 days gives the Terps some time to gear up for Big Ten play. Maryland plays at Penn on Wednesday and then has a week to prepare for another Ivy foe in Princeton on Wednesday, March 29. Then, the heart of the Big Ten schedule begins with Michigan on Sunday, April 2, and culminates with rival No. 3 Northwestern on Saturday, April 22.

“It’s kind of snuck up on us,” Reese said. “We’re 10 games into the season, and it’s like, holy moly. … We have to bring it every day that we play.”


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