Fall Ball Focus: Much Room to Grow for Maryland After Final Four Run

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Kennedy Major defends during a fall scrimmage at Towson.


Only four hours of practice time led into Maryland’s first fall ball scrimmage, an unofficial 10-6 loss to James Madison last weekend at Towson.

A final four team in 2022, the Terps lost key leadership in Grace Griffin and Aurora Cordingley but return a slew of playmakers across the field ready for another run at a national title. Still, the first time playing outside competition in the fall provided some levity before the grind truly begins.

“We’re saying different things, and no one knows when we’re sliding, and we haven’t even covered defending picks yet,” Reese said, laughing as she recalled some of the on-field moments that had just transpired. “So, I’ve got these freshmen, and they’re like, ‘What?’ And I’m like, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll get there.’”

Getting there shouldn’t be too difficult for a team that — on paper, at least — has all the makings of a surefire title contender. Emily Sterling, the top goalie in the nation a year ago, is back, and an already strong defense was fortified with the addition of Princeton transfer Marge Donovan and the potentially surprising return of Abby Bosco for her sixth year of college lacrosse.

The offense loses Cordingley, a Tewaaraton Award finalist, but Reese’s teams are almost never shy of weapons on that end of the field. And Shaylan Ahearn, a senior who had a phenomenal month of May on the draw, is back to get the offense started with possession.

“Everybody’s got a lot to learn. We have a lot of growing room,” Reese said. “I’m excited about that, though, because I think we have a lot of talent.”

LAST SEASON

Maryland was back in the final four for the first time since 2019 (when it won the national championship), a welcome sign in College Park after an influx of youth in 2020 and 2021. But up 16-13 with 7-plus minutes remaining against Boston College in the national semifinals, the Terps surrendered the final four goals of the contest and lost.







BIGGEST FALL QUESTION

Who replaces the production of Aurora Cordingley?

A transfer last season from Johns Hopkins, Cordingley was possibly even better than advertised in Reese’s system. The Ontario product earned recognition as a Tewaaraton Award finalist after producing 118 points (the fourth-most in Terps history in a season) on 67 goals and 51 assists.

So, now the Terps need to replicate her playmaking. Libby May and Hannah Leubecker are skilled finishers, though neither are X attackers. That’s where Reese could turn to a committee approach, likely headlined by Eloise Clevenger and Jordyn Lipkin. Both had their moments in 2022, and both will be thrust into much larger roles this spring.

MARQUEE ADDITION: MARGE DONOVAN

One of the top transfers of the summer, Donovan comes to College Park from Princeton, where she led the Tigers’ defense and helped spark the transition game. While no doubt a key addition, Cathy Reese cautioned that Donovan could take some time to adjust to new schemes.

“Marge is joining us from a team where she’s played for four years that plays a different system of defense than we do,” Reese said. “So, there’s a lot of learning. The learning curve is just kind of starting. But, overall, her experience, her athleticism, her ability to see and understand what’s happening and read plays is huge.”

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: ELOISE CLEVENGER

Clevenger contributed 32 goals and 31 assists last season, starting 20 games as a sophomore. She shined during a three-game stretch that started with a six-point day against Rutgers in the Big Ten championship game, finishing that trio of games with 14 points combined. It sounds like replacing Cordingley’s production as a distributor will come from a multitude of players, but expect Clevenger to be the one who takes the biggest jump.

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