The Terps (9-6) will take on the High Point Panthers in their first NCAA tournament game since 2019 after the 2020 season ended prematurely due to COVID-19.
Maryland remains the defending champions after their title in the 2019 tournament. The Terps have also made it to 11 straight final fours under head coach Cathy Reese, who has won five national championships in her tenure at Maryland.
High Point will be the first non-Big Ten opponent that Maryland has faced all season, something that is exciting for both the coaching staff and the players.
“It’s super exciting to finally get to play teams outside of our conference,” senior midfielder Hannah Warther said. “Half of our team hasn’t been to the tournament yet, so I’m super excited for those girls and as a team we’re ready to go.”
High Point finished the year with a 10-7 record and played a full schedule of conference and non-conference opponents. The Panthers went 6-0 in the Big South this season, including a victory over Radford in the conference championship.
The Panthers’ success this season is largely due to their high-powered offense which is top-20 in the nation in goals per game. Their leading scorer, senior attacker Abby Hormes, finished the regular season with 75 goals, good for second in the nation behind Izzy Scane.
“They’ve scored a lot of goals this season, they’re a very high-scoring offense,” Reese said. “The way that we choose to defend them and sticking to our game plan will be crucial to our success.”
This is the second straight game that Maryland will be facing a high-scoring offense after facing Northwestern in the Big Ten championship. The Terps held Northwestern to 17 goals in that game, which was their second lowest total on the season.
Maryland has been playing some of its best lacrosse since the end of the regular season, especially on the defensive side. In three games in the Big Ten tournament, the Terps allowed a combined 10 goals in the first half, with seven of those coming against Northwestern.
Although they have still struggled to put together a full 60 minutes of solid lacrosse all season, Maryland has shown they are mentally tough and can win close games. That is something which has increased their confidence as a team and will certainly benefit them in the tournament.
The Terps would still benefit from increased consistency on offense. They did finally shoot 50 percent against Northwestern, something Reese has been preaching all season. However, they struggled mightily on the draw which limited their opportunities despite the efficient shooting.
Facing off against another lethal offense, it is very important that Maryland is more successful on the draw this week. A better showing on the draw plus a second straight game shooting above 50 percent would go a long way in securing a victory against High Point.
“Limiting our turnovers is going to be huge and controlling the ball off the draw is a crucial part of any game,” senior defender Lizzie Colson said. “High Point is a really tough, competitive team, especially in ground balls, so we need to hustle to every loose ball.”
This first round matchup will air on Friday at 7 p.m. on ESPN3 from Koskinen Stadium on the Duke campus.