Maryland women’s lacrosse had to wait an extra week to finally begin its 2021 season after its Feb. 14 game against Johns Hopkins was postponed. The Terps will visit Penn State on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. in what will be their first of two visits to State College this season.
Head coach Cathy Reese is confident that the Hopkins cancellation did not deter her team’s energy and focus leading up to the matchup with Penn State.
“Everyone is just hungry and ready to see what this group can do,” Reese said on Wednesday.
What this group can do may surprise some people. Although Maryland is ranked No. 7 in the IWLCA poll, they posted a mediocre 3-3 record in the 6 games they played last season. This year’s team has the opportunity to prove that a .500 record is not representative of the talent on the field.
“I think we’re going to come out so fast and pushing fast breaks,” senior midfielder Grace Griffin said. “Just connecting the dots and putting everything together is going to be really exciting.”
Reese will be relying on multiple freshman and sophomores on Sunday and throughout the season, perhaps none more important than sophomore midfielder Shaylan Ahearn. Ahearn will be filling the shoes of the graduated Kali Hartshorn on the draw.
Midfielder Eloise Clevinger and defender Kacy Hogarth are two true freshmen that Reese expects will make an impact this season. Many eyes will also be on the return of senior defender Lizzie Colson, who will be playing in her first game since 2019 after suffering an ACL injury.
“With the return of Lizzie Colson to our defense, that’s really helpful,” Reese said. “Just her leadership, her experience, that’s going to be a big factor for us too, to help raise the level of people around her.”
No. 21 Penn State will also be relying on a lot of young talent to win games this season. In their first game against Rutgers, a 20-11 victory, the Nittany Lions started three true freshmen as well as three second-year freshmen.
Freshman midfielder Kristin O’Neill was Penn State’s most impactful player against Rutgers, scoring 4 goals and forcing 3 turnovers. Junior goalie Taylor Suplee, who was an honorable mention for Inside Lacrosse’s all-American list, also made an impact with 12 saves.
Penn State had three players on the preseason Big Ten “Players to Watch” list: senior attacker Maria Auth, sophomore midfielder Olivia Dirks, and Suplee.
It will be interesting to see how Maryland’s inexperienced defense holds up against a powerful Penn State attack that scored 20 goals a week ago and was third in the Big Ten in both goals and assists last season.
Maryland has dominated Penn State in the past two decades, with Penn State’s last victory coming back in 2005. Although the dominance is well-documented, Reese is not concerned with who is lining up on the other side of the field.
“It’s not about who we play, it’s about us,” Reese said. “We need to focus on being a better version of ourselves than we were the day before.”