Big Third Quarter Lifts Maryland Past Florida in NCAA Quarterfinals

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER


COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Cathy Reese isn’t in the business of proving points. Neither is Emily Sterling. Both the longtime head coach and breakout goalie let what happens on the field speak for itself.

So, that’s what Maryland did Thursday afternoon in the NCAA quarterfinals against Florida. In a rematch of a late-February game in which it was clear Florida had yet to come into its own, Maryland proved its opponent was not the only team that had progressed in the past two months.

After a 10-goal beat down of the Gators in the first game, second-seeded Maryland ousted seventh-seeded Florida by an even bigger margin, 18-5 — the Gators’ lowest scoring output this spring. Libby May led the charge with five goals, and Sterling made eight saves in just over 52 minutes.

Maryland moves on to the NCAA semifinals for the 12th time in 13 seasons and will play third-seeded Boston College, which beat Loyola 20-13 Thursday.

“I’m not a point-prover,” Reese said. “Let’s play lacrosse. Let’s have fun, and let’s try to execute play by play. I don’t talk about outcomes.”

If anyone had to prove a point this season, it was Sterling. The junior goalie from Bel Air, Md., saw action in three games in 2020 and saved just 31.7 percent of shots before the season was canceled prematurely because of COVID-19. She returned the following season to start 16 of 17 games, and while the results were better, they still weren’t great. She saved 39.9 percent of shots and allowed 12.34 goals per game.

Sterling has been a different player in 2022. The results are night and day. She’s first in the nation with a 54.9 save percentage and second in goals against average (7.36). She was named the Big Ten Goaltender of the Year and a USA Lacrosse Magazine first-team All-American.







Even though Sterling needed to prove to herself — and the lacrosse world at large — that she could compete with the sport’s best, she deferred the personal accolades.

“It’s really about building up confidence,” Sterling said. “And Libby talked earlier about the experience of our team, being so young last year, only playing conference games for the entirety of our season, and then moving into this year being exposed to a lot more teams … we have a lot more confidence not only in ourselves, but in each other.”

Reese was more excited to dole out praise.

“You can see it when you watch on the field,” Reese said. “Her save percentage is through the roof, and she’s just come in on a whole other level this year. It’s huge. It gives our defense in front of her all the confidence in the world.”

Sterling was a much-needed presence in the first half. Despite the gaudy final output for Maryland, the Terps led just 6-3 at halftime. Mired in a defensive battle, the Terps leaned on Sterling to maintain their slim lead. She made five of her eight saves in the first half.

The script changed in the third quarter, when Maryland held a 7-3 advantage on the draw and outscored the Gators 8-1 as a result.

Up 14-4 after the third, the Terps coasted.

“We’re so proud of ourselves,” May said. “It’s been a journey, but we’re really excited for next weekend.”

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