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Defense powers No. 9 Maryland women’s lacrosse to 12-9 win over No. 18 Michigan

COLLEGE PARK — When senior midfielder Maggie Kane converted a pass from senior attacker Caitlin Muir to pull the Michigan women’s lacrosse team within three goals of Maryland, the Wolverines bench erupted in cheers. There was plenty of time — more than 12 minutes — left in the second half to make a run at overtaking the 14-time and defending national champion Terps.

That turned out to be the last explosion of joy for No. 18 Michigan as No. 9 Maryland relied on a stout defense to shut the door on the Wolverines en route to a 12-9 victory Sunday afternoon at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex.

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Senior midfielder Grace Griffin scored four goals and sophomore attacker Hannah Leubecker earned her second hat trick in as many games, but the catalyst for the Terps (2-1 overall and in the Big Ten) was a stifling defense that held an opponent under double-digit goals for the first time this season.

“Today, we wanted to hold them to less than 10 goals, and defensively, we learned from our mistakes [in a 17-13 win] on Friday, and let’s see if we can make those adjustments to do that, and we did,” coach Cathy Reese said. “I thought our offense did an awesome job re-defending. So they were able to set up our defense, too, because we could take some time off the shot clock to play defense.”

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Added redshirt senior defender Lizzie Colson: “That’s something we really focus on, and I think it’s something that’s exciting. It’s something that we are holding our defense to. It’s a high standard, and it was a nice feat to achieve today.”

The unit was especially suffocating after Kane’s second goal of the game with 12:35 left in the second half. Over the rest of the game, Maryland induced Michigan (0-3 overall and in the Big Ten) into committing four turnovers, caused two more and did not allow a shot to reach sophomore goalkeeper Emily Sterling.

“I think we just started playing to get better,” said Griffin, who corralled a career-high five ground balls and caused two turnovers. “We finally got our slides figured out. We’re talking to each other, we’re playing for one another, not just one girl-focused. I think that really helped.”

The defense’s performance offset an offense that did not find the net over the last 15:03, but Colson said the unit did not feel a burden to cement the victory.

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“I think it went both ways,” she said. “We had a few turnovers on the defensive end. There’s never really that burden. I think we’re really good at bringing each other up and focusing on the next play and taking it one stop at a time. I know every time we bring into the huddle and the attack turns it over, we’re like, ‘All right, big stop here.’ We had a few really good stops at the end that were momentum shifts, and then we just had to take care of the ball after those big stops.”

Sterling, a Bel Air resident and John Carroll graduate, finished with a game-high seven saves, including six in the first half. The Terps caused 13 of the Wolverines’ 20 turnovers, including three each from Colson and sophomore attacker Libby May (Hereford).

“We were making contact on defense where as before we weren’t, and we were just coming up with those 50-50 balls,” said Colson, a Manchester resident and Manchester Valley graduate who controlled four draws and scooped up two ground balls. “We need to work on that contact a little bit more, and we need to slide a little bit sooner, but I think we were just hunting the ball a lot, and I think a lot of it goes back to that support we had when the ball was on the ground and we were fighting for it.”

The defense looked suspect in the first 19 minutes when the Wolverines sprinted to a 4-1 advantage with 11:41 remaining, including three in a row over a 7:36 span. But the unit found its footing for the rest of the half, surrendering only one more goal, and the offense took advantage by outscoring Michigan 7-1.

“We were picking better shots, and we were putting it in the back of the net, which seems like the obvious answer,” Reese said of the offense’s reversal. “But sometimes I think – and this is how we felt after [a 15-13 loss at] Penn State [on Feb. 21] – we were just kind of throwing it at the cage and not really placing our shots where we wanted them. That got a little better, and that’s what helped us gain some momentum offensively.”

The offense wasn’t quite as prolific as Friday’s showing when it totaled 17 goals in a four-goal win against Michigan. But Griffin scored two goals in each half, including two on three free-position chances to make a 3-for-8 performance on those opportunities a bit more palatable.

“I think we kind of started out a little bit on our heels, a little taken surprise by the weather,” the Sykesville resident and Liberty graduate said. “We weren’t coming out as hard as we wanted to. We kind of just needed that switch, we kind of needed something to get us rolling and come back and play the game the way we wanted to. I just saw my opportunities, everybody started going hard, and I kind of just had to take those shots.”

Junior midfielder Kaitlyn Mead led Michigan with three goals and one assist, Kane added two goals and one assist, and Muir chipped in one goal and two assists. Senior goalie Arielle Weissman finished with six stops, but the Wolverines opened the season with three consecutive setbacks for the first time since 2017.

NO. 9 MARYLAND@JOHNS HOPKINS

March 10, 4 p.m.

State women

No. 3 Northwestern 18, Johns Hopkins 9: The Wildcats (3-0 overall and in Big Ten) used a 7-1 run early in the second half to take control of the game en route to an 18-9 win over the host Blue Jays (0-3, 0-3) on a rain-soaked Homewood Field.

Maggie Schneidereith led the Blue Jays with six points on four goals and two assists. Maeve Barker notched a career-best four points (two goals, two assists) and her first career assist, while Aurora Cordingley (two goals, one assist) and Mackenzie Heldberg (one goal, two assists) each added three points.

Izzy Scane paced Northwestern with a game-high seven goals, while Lauren Gilbert added four goals, two assists and nine draws.

Towson 18, George Mason 4: Lindsay Marshall and Molly Lynch each scored a hat trick and Nikki Sliwak recorded two goals and four assists to help the Tigers (4-0) rout the visiting Patriots (0-2) for their fourth straight win.

Blair Pearre and Kaitlin Thornton each added two goals and an assist for Towson, which had 11 players score goals.

Towson will host No. 5 Stony Brook on Sunday at 1 p.m.

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