Maryland ends Rutgers bid for first-ever Big Ten tournament title in women’s lacrosse
The conviction was there, but the finish was not.
Behind a dominating second half, Maryland rebuffed Rutgers’ thwarted bid in Sunday’s Big Ten tournament final as the No. 3-ranked Terps dominated the final 30 minutes en route to an 18-8 win at the SHI Stadium in Piscataway.
Rutgers, making their first appearance in a conference championship, couldn’t match Maryland’s second-half push. The No. 3 Maryland beat No. 13 Rutgers, 11-1, in the second half to open a game that went to the break tied, 7-7.
“I think in the second half, Maryland came out and we got caught off guard,” Rutgers coach Melissa Lehman said. “We didn’t see their picks and the ball. We didn’t have a lot of draw controls, so when you’re in that situation against such a deadly and powerful attack, like Maryland, you have to take the ball out of the draw. It hurt us pretty early on.
A goal from junior midfielder Cassidy Spilis gave Rutgers a 7-5 lead late in the second quarter. It was a moment that made Rutgers fans believe another upset could be in the works.
After all, Rutgers entered Sunday’s final on the heels of their first-ever win over No. 4 Northwestern and their first victory over a top-five opponent. Rutgers was 0-17 against Northwestern heading into the weekend and 1-22 against Maryland.
In the first half, Rutgers’ defense blocked Maryland, as did Northwestern. Rutgers allowed 21 goals in a regular season loss to Northwestern but limited the Wildcats to just five goals Friday night in a victory that seemed like a big step forward for Lehman’s program.
“Today’s result wasn’t what we wanted, but I’m so proud of this team and the history we’ve made beating a top-five program we’ve never beaten” , Lehman said. “It gives my team so much confidence.”
Rutgers, playing its first conference title game since 1998, hoped to turn that confidence into another upset. It wasn’t meant to be.
“Thanks to Maryland, they’re a really good team,” said Rutgers attack Taralyn “TT Naslonski.
“It was just a great honor to be here on our home turf for the Big Ten Championship game. I think that says a lot about our program and where we are at.
Libby May and Hannah Leubecker combined for nine goals in Maryland on Sunday. Aurora Cordingley, who scored two goals in Friday’s semi-final victory over Johns Hopkins, added four more against Rutgers as she was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
With the victory, Maryland clinched its fourth Big Ten tournament title since 2016 and the 31st conference championship overall. Both teams await their fate for the NCAA Tournament.
Selections will be announced later tonight.
The latest projections have Rutgers as the No. 6 seed, which would give the Scarlet Knights a first-round home game on Friday.
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Patrick Lanni can be reached at [email protected].