No. 9 Maryland women’s lacrosse travels to No. 14 Penn State for rematch of season opener

(Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

The Terps (6-3 B1G) will look to build off of their win against Rutgers on Sunday at 1:00 when they visit Happy Valley for another matchup with the Nittany Lions (3-6 B1G). 

Penn State took the first game 15-13 but since that game, they’ve struggled with a 1-6 record, including three straight losses. Meanwhile, Maryland is 6-2 since that first matchup and is coming off of a bounceback win against Rutgers. 

The Nittany Lions have been led by three primary scorers so far this season, graduate student attacker Maria Auth (22 goals), freshman midfielder Kristin O’Neil (20 goals), and sophomore midfielder Olivia Dirks (19 goals). Dirks did the most damage in the first game against Maryland, scoring five goals. 

One of Penn State’s biggest struggles since their 2-0 start has been controlling the draw. The Nittany Lions have been outdone on the draw in almost every one of their games, including the first Maryland game. 

Maryland’s biggest issue in the first Penn State game, and throughout the season, was turnovers. The Terps dominated the draw, but turned it over 16 times, squandering a lot of opportunities to generate offense. 

“We need to just take a little more pride in each possession,” head coach Cathy Reese said on Thursday. “Obviously possession equals opportunity to score and if you don’t have the ball you can’t score, so that’s something we need to get better at heading into Penn State.”

Something else Maryland struggled with in the opener was shooting percentage, but that is something that the Terps have improved upon since. Maryland was very close to hitting that 50% mark in shooting percentage against Rutgers, something Reese has been clamoring for all season.

Partly to thank for that increased shooting percentage are seniors Hannah Warther and Brindi Griffin, who scored four and three goals respectively and both shot at least 60%. 

“Hannah was on fire, and I love seeing that,” Brindi Griffin said after the Rutgers game. “Seeing her do so well on the field, I absolutely love it. I get so excited and I think the rest of the team gets so excited when she does well.” 

Maryland’s most dominant scorer this season, however, is sophomore Hannah Leubecker, who has 36 goals on the season. Leubecker was quiet against Penn State in the opener, but expect her to make a big impact the second time around against the Nittany Lions. 

The Terps defense is also much improved since the start of the season. Aside from two games at Northwestern, Maryland has allowed double-digit goals just twice since the first Penn State game. 

If Maryland can limit their turnovers, continue to improve their shooting percentage, and play solid defense again, they should come away with a win Sunday afternoon.