No. 9 Maryland women’s lacrosse hosts No. 23 Rutgers

(Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

After a nine-day layoff, the Terps (5-3 B1G) will host the Scarlet Knights (3-5 B1G) on senior day in College Park. 

Maryland will honor eight seniors, including starters Brindi Griffin, Lizzie Colson, Catie May, and Hannah Warther. Seniors Grace Griffin and Tori Barretta will be staying one more year at Maryland, taking advantage of the NCAA’s eligibility rule because of the pandemic.

“I’m so excited,” Grace Griffin said when asked about the senior day festivities. “I love my class and I’m so grateful to have had the past four with them. I just want to help bring them up, be on the field with them, and just make the most of it for them.”

Once the game starts, Maryland will need to shift its focus towards improving their play. Back-to-back losses last weekend at Northwestern gave the Terps plenty to work on over their long break.

“We’re really going back to reinforcing the basics,” head coach Cathy Reese said about what her staff has been emphasizing in practice. “Defensively, that’s good one-on-one defense and communication. Offensively, it’s executing what we’re asking and finishing those opportunities.”

Before last weekend, Maryland had put together an excellent stretch of team defense, allowing less than 10 goals in each of the four games leading up to its two-contest series against Northwestern. Playing against a Wildcats team that leads the country in scoring put an end to that streak.

Rutgers is averaging just over 10 goals a game and are led in scoring by sophomore midfielder Cassidy Spills (23 goals) and senior attacker Taralyn Naslonski (17 goals). Maryland’s defense should have a much easier time defending the Rutgers attack, especially given how dominant they’ve been at home this season.

Maryland’s offense has also struggled with consistency this season. The Terps have had games where they have looked unstoppable, but also games in which they cannot take advantage of the opportunities they create for themselves. 

“Consistency across the board has been a process this year,” Reese said. “I’m ready for us to be over 50% in shooting. I’m struggling because clearly I’m not doing a good enough job because we’re not there and that’s where we want to be.” 

As frustrating as Maryland’s inconsistency has been, they have still put up big numbers this season. Sophomore attacker Hannah Leubecker has been dominant, leading the team with 35 goals, including five this past game against Northwestern. 

Maryland’s seniors have also played big roles offensively this season. Grace Griffin is second on the team with 15 goals and she leads the team with 11 assists while Brindi Griffin and Warther each have 11 goals. 

Rutgers has struggled to contain opposing offenses this season and they will have their hands full on Thursday against the Terps. If Maryland can get back to the way they were playing before Northwestern, they should come away with a win.

The game will air on Thursday at 5:00 on the Big Ten Network.