Losing is something that the Maryland women’s lacrosse program is not terribly accustomed to.
As disappointing as the top-seeded Terps’ 16-11 setback to No. 2 seed Northwestern in the Big Ten tournament final Sunday afternoon at Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Field was, junior defender Lizzie Colson remained defiant that the loss would not define their season.
“It’s great for Northwestern, but this is not the end of our season and it’s not the end of their season,” the Manchester native and Manchester Valley graduate said. “We have a lot more work to do, and I think we’re excited. We’re going to go out Monday and work super hard. We’re not done, and I think we know what we need to work on, and we’re excited to get out there.”
Colson is right. The blemish won’t damage Maryland’s playoff profile too much. It marked the nation’s No. 1 ranked team’s first loss of the season in 19 games. The Terps will likely be among the NCAA tournament's top four seeds and secure a bye to the second round.
Although Atlantic Coast Conference tournament runner-up Boston College (19-1) might leapfrog the Terps for the overall No. 1 seed, coach Cathy Reese said Sunday’s outcome offers the coaches and players an opportunity to scrutinize themselves and make the necessary changes heading into the postseason.
“When you get to the NCAA tournament, this is the exciting part here, and it should be fun,” she said. “They shouldn’t feel like they’re wearing the weight of the world. It should be the time we work for all season. So we’ll have the chance to get after it for a week when we see our draw, but frankly, that shouldn’t matter. What matters is us. What matters is how we can respond from this and what we can do to be better and in-tune with each other and to just kind of see that excitement and feeling a little less pressure.”
There will be a lot to study for Maryland. The No. 5 ranked Wildcats (14-4) controlled all three parts of the field in their emphatic victory. They captured their first Big Ten tournament crown and vaulted themselves into the conversation for one of the top four seeds in the NCAA bracket, which will be unveiled at 8 p.m. on NCAA.com.
Freshman attacker Izzy Scane scored the game’s first two goals, and Northwestern never surrendered the lead after that. A pair of goals from senior attacker Caroline Steele (Severn) drew the Terps within one with 26:27 left (trailing 2-1) and 10:48 remaining (5-4) in the first half, but the Wildcats always had an answer.
In fact, Northwestern scored the first half’s last five goals to enjoy a 10-4 advantage at halftime. That marked the Terps’ largest deficit at the break since March 14, 2007, when they trailed Virginia, 8-1, in an eventual 15-4 loss.
Maryland’s 11 goals marked its lowest offensive output since an 11-10 win at Princeton on April 10, 2018. The Wildcats shut out senior midfielder Jen Giles (Mount Hebron), the Terps’ leader in goals (50), assists (22) and points (72), and senior goalkeeper Mallory Weisse made 10 saves en route to being named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
“We wanted to keep them at bay and take away some of their strengths,” Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “We knew how many weapons that they had. So we knew we had to play well individually and make some stops, which Mallory did a great job of in the cage.”
The Wildcats’ starting attack of Scane, senior Selena Lasota, junior Lindsey McKone and sophomore Lauren Gilbert combined to score 14 goals, and McKone added three assists. Twelve of their goals were unassisted, demonstrating their confidence in beating Maryland defenders off the dodge.
“They’re a really quick team,” Colson said. “So they’re really hard to keep up with. We had a few lapses that they just capitalized on. They were taking advantage of our mistakes. We had a few mental lapses that they were doing a good job of finishing on.”
The Terps failed to capture the Big Ten tournament crown for the first time since the league’s inaugural season in 2015. But Reese pointed out that that squad rebounded from a loss to Ohio State in the semifinals to march to the program’s 12th of 13 national championships.
“We lost one game this year,” she said. “We can take a step back with that. The world’s not ending. We’re all right.”
Notes: The Terps were represented on the All-Tournament team by Colson, senior defender Julia Braig, graduate student midfielder Erica Evans and junior attacker Brindi Griffin. Northwestern placed Lasota, McKone, Scane, Weisse and sophomore midfielder Brennan Dwyer on the team. Junior midfielders Molly Garrett and Nadine Stewart of Michigan and senior midfielder Kayla Brisolari (Archbishop Spalding) and freshman goalkeeper Taylor Suplee (Southern-AA) of Penn State also made the team. … Maryland is 7-2 in the Big Ten tournament. … With eight saves, Terps senior goalie Megan Taylor (Glenelg) reached the 700-saves mark and has 701 in her career. … The Wildcats, who led the Big Ten in draw controls per game (17.5), won 19 of 29 on Sunday, including 12 of 15 in the first half.