Maryland women’s lacrosse unable to overcome slow first half in loss to Syracuse

Syracuse’s Sam Swart was just one step quicker. Among a tangle of snatching lacrosse sticks, Swart scooped a ground ball. Then she took off, beating two Maryland defenders, faking once, and finding the bottom corner, good for a 9-5 lead. 

Her reaction time and finish was a microcosm of a scrappy yet ultimately unsuccessful 60 minutes for Maryland women’s lacrosse.  While the Terps clawed their way into what once looked like a lost cause, they were ultimately a step slower, losing 10-5 for their second consecutive home loss. 

Maryland, shutout in the first half, showed fight in the second. But even a promising second half run couldn’t alleviate the difference in quality between the two teams. The Terps turned the ball over 20 times, and couldn’t capitalize on crucial opportunities, looking improved, but still off the pace of another women’s lacrosse power. 

“We need to step up,” coach Cathy Reese said. “With a team that’s got a lot of new people that hasn’t had much game experience, we need them to step up quickly.”

After shooting a mere 39% on free positions thus far, a good start from the 8-meter line was crucial for Maryland women’s lacrosse Saturday. But when offered the opportunity to fix Maryland’s woes, Libby May bounced her shot harmlessly at Asa Goldstock. Her misfire was emblematic of a Maryland offense that lacked conviction in the opening half — a quality that showed as the Terps went scoreless. 

“I just felt like we weren’t attacking the cage,” Reese said. “Against a defense that sits in the 8-meter, and clogs space, you’ve got to attack them.”

The Terps were sloppy early. Each pass was a couple of inches wide, each step slightly too slow. With each Maryland mistake, the raucous traveling Syracuse crowd roared. But their team couldn’t quite produce in the offensive third. For the most part, Maryland kept attacker Emily Hawryschuk quiet, with defender Meghan Doherty guarding her tightly for the opening half. 

Effective as Doherty was, goalie Maddie McSally kept Maryland alive. Facing a barrage of shots, she made saves all over the cage, blanking the Orange six times in the opening period. 

“A lot of the time I get in my head, so I just want to see the ball, save the ball,” McSally said. “That’s all I can do.”

Yet she couldn’t block them all. Hawryschuk scored two virtuoso goals, Syracuse tacked on two more. Although they were spread out, each Orange strike made every Maryland giveaway hurt. Still, Maryland’s lack of offense was far less catastrophic than it could have been, as they trailed by a manageable 4-0.

When Hawryschuk steps up for free position shots, few have been able to block her. With 28 minutes remaining in the second half, McSally did just that. The senior strode into a shot, but McSally parried it away — the beginnings of an even better defensive showing in the second half. 

The Terps completely reversed their performance from the first half to begin the second. While Maryland held on to the ball, found cutters, and created opportunities, Syrcause threw errant passes and coughed the ball up easily. While Maryland found the net with tricky finishes, Sycause blew easier chances.

“Our defense really stepped up today,” Doherty said. “We took away a lot of opportunities that they usually look for.”

Hannah warther provided the first, rippling the net from a tight angle after beating two defenders. Grace Griffin was next, calmly bouncing in a free position look before slamming her stick on the ground, mobbed by teammates. She provided another minutes later, this time in more dramatic fashion, slinging a sidearm shot past Goldstock. Further goals from Brindi Griffin and Hannah Leubecker, split by two Orange strikes, made it a one goal game with 15 minutes to play. 

Then the Terps lost all momentum.

Syracuse turned to its typical source for production. Hawryschuk nailed one of her few opportunities, latching on to a rare Maryland defensive lapse to charge down the field and fire a shot past McSally. Carney added a second two minutes later to give the Orange a 8-5 lead with seven minutes left to play. 

And it got worse from there for the Terps. Afforded numerous good looks by an often-stagnant Syracuse defense, they couldn’t convert down the stretch. Swart’s goal was completed by another Hawryschuk strike with 2:01 remaining. Once again, Hawryschuk was just one step ahead of the Maryland defense as the ball rippled the back of the net.

“We need to be able to play 60 minutes,” Reese said. “Not have these bursts of great play and then lows as well.”