Grace Griffin had her sights set on playing lacrosse at University of Maryland in the early stages of her high school career at Liberty.
She played basketball at Liberty too, but lacrosse became her love. Griffin collected four Times first-team all-county nods, and scored 208 career goals. Last spring, she led the Lions to their first regional championship in 17 years.
The Terps were getting a talented player, and Griffin was somewhat resigned to honing her college skills as a reserve during her rookie season.
Plans have changed, it seems.
Griffin is Maryland’s lone freshman starter, and she’s making a name for herself by thriving in the midfield for the No. 2-ranked women’s lacrosse team in the country.
“I can’t complain. It’s been such an amazing experience,” Griffin said. “Coming in and being able to take this role on the team is really amazing. I’ve already learned so much. I think it’s so exciting that it’s just my first season, not even a complete season yet.”
She has eight starts in 11 games for the Terps (10-1) with 15 goals and four assists. Griffin earned Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Week honors March 27 following a five-point effort (four goals, one assist) in Maryland’s 15-12 win over James Madison.
She added three goals and two assists March 28 in a 17-5 win over Georgetown.
Griffin is sixth on the team in points, and has 17 groundballs and eight caused turnovers as well. Her defensive game has caught the eye of Terps coach Cathy Reese.
“She’s such a talented player,” Reese said in a recent US Lacrosse Magazine article. “As the season goes on, we’re seeing her get more and more confident with our system on both the offensive and defensive end. First of all, she’s such a good defender. You’re seeing a lot of her ground balls and caused turnovers come out of the defensive end, and she just does such a good job in her one-on-one defense.”
Griffin has a handful of former Carroll standouts as Maryland teammates — sophomore defender Lizzie Colson (Manchester Valley), junior defender Shelby Mercer and junior midfielder Marissa Donoghue (both Century), senior defender Julia LeGar (Eldersburg/Garrison Forest), freshman midfielder Kylie Davis (Century), and sophomore mid Hannah Warther (Century).
Griffin said she came to College Park eager to learn and showcase her talent, but it wasn’t until someone mentioned to her recently that she came to realize the significance of her landing a starting role. Griffin assumed the spot on the field left vacant by Zoe Stukenberg, a decorated four-year player who graduated after claiming the Tewaaraton Award as college lacrosse’s top player in 2017.
“It’s pretty daunting just because Zoe is such an amazing player and person,” Griffin said. “It’s such an honor to able to try to fill her shoes.”
But when it’s game time, Griffin said, there’s no focus other than winning. Maryland’s expectations certainly haven’t wavered — the Terps are the reigning national champs after going 23-0 last season.
They opened this season with a pair of wins before facing North Carolina on Feb. 24, and the Tar Heels enjoyed a 16-15 overtime victory (Griffin had two goals and four groundballs that day). Maryland hasn’t lost since, and takes an eight-game winning streak into Wednesday’s matchup with No. 6 Virginia.
“She’s really adjusting nicely to the college game,” Reese said. “There are so many different rules than you have in high school, and she’s come in and she’s adjusted so nicely.”
Griffin said the UNC loss gave the Terps a chance to re-center themselves early in the season and get back on track for the remainder of the spring. It also gave Griffin a chance to prove she can compete with and against the nation's best, something not many freshmen can claim.
“The really great thing about our team is that it doesn’t matter your age,” Griffin said. “We just look at everyone’s skill with the way they play and how they fit in with one another, and I guess that I just fit in. Having worked hard over the summer, just being able to learn so much from every one of the coaches so quickly, it’s been a really great experience.”