One-Time Rivals Bosco and Donovan Uniting at Maryland


Abby Bosco became the seventh-straight Terp to win Big Ten Defender of the Year in 2022

Princeton and Penn are separated by 50.7 miles on I-95. In women’s lacrosse, the two programs are heated rivals, having squared off in four of six league tournament title games from 2014-19.

But in January of 2021, Princeton defender Marge Donovan and Penn defender were united by the same worry after the Ivy League canceled the 2021 season — the only conference to take that measure in Division I.

“That was the worst thought,” Donovan said.

Bosco had held out hope for a 2021 season until a call with league officials informed student-athletes it wasn’t going to happen.

“Right after that call, I called [head coach] Karin [Corbett] and said, ‘I think I need to go into the transfer portal for my grad year. I’m not done playing. I still love it,’” Bosco said. “But I wasn’t going to go unless it was a program I really wanted.”

By then, teams had set rosters 2021 season, so Bosco was in a holding pattern. The Quakers played in one game, a win over La Salle on April 22. Bosco tallied six draw controls, four ground balls and two caused turnovers. It would mark her final game in a Penn uniform and it wouldn’t count toward her eligibility. Bosco met with the Maryland coaching staff over Zoom, and she was sold.

“They have a way of making you feel at home,” Bosco said. “I just met them and felt I knew them for years. They are the best coaches and people. They make you love the sport and the people you are playing it with.”

Maryland likes to call itself Defender U, and it’s lived up to that name over the years. A Terp has been named Big Ten Defender of the Year in each of its seven seasons of the conference. Last year, that honor went to Bosco, who scooped a conference-record 63 ground balls. She was part of a unit that let in 7.81 goals per game, the second lowest mark in Division I. It was a dream come true for a defender who grew up watching former Terps like Julia Braig, Alice Mercer and Nadine Hadnagy.

Though the Terps have long employed a 1v1 defense, Bosco credits her teammates for her success. Her roommates, Grace Griffin and Torie Barretta, treated her like they’d been teammates forever. Big Ten and IWLCA Goaltender of the Year Emily Sterling, who ranked second nationally in save percentage (.531), consistently saved the day. And fellow defenders, including 2023 returners Maddie Sanchez, Brianna Lamoureux and Aiden Peduzzi, always had her back.

“Something we were emphasizing at the end of the season is sending help if we had a top matchup on a really good player,” Bosco said. “That came from communication with all seven defenders. Yes, it’s 1v1 defense, but you can only play that for so long. Once she’s in the 8, it’s a team effort.”

In 2023, Marge Donovan will be a part of that team effort. Donovan returned to Princeton in 2022 for her final year of eligibility at an Ivy League school. She captained the Tigers to a league title, corralled a program-record 112 draws and was named Ivy League Defender of the Year. It could have been the end for Donovan, but then that “301” area code showed up on her caller ID — a familiar one for the Catonsville, Md., native who once played high school ball at McDonogh.

It was Cathy Reese, and she was interested in having Donovan play one more season at Maryland.

“When Cathy at Maryland comes knocking, you’ve got to open that door,” Donovan said. “It worked out so perfectly, going back home and being part of such an incredible legacy with the Terps. It was a no-brainer.”

Donovan went to Maryland games as a teenager but got injured during her sophomore year in high school, once a pivotal season for recruits. Still, the Taylor Cummings-era Terps remained an inspiration.

“I’ll never forget the first time I saw them play in College Park with UNC,” Donovan said. "I went with a couple of high school friends. I was just in awe…As a kid, you dream about that stuff.”

The Big Ten has some of the toughest competition in the country. Maryland and Northwestern both played in the Final Four. Rutgers is coming off a historic season that saw it win a program-record 16 games and advance to the Big Ten final, which Maryland won. Though Donovan faced stiff competition in the Ivy League, she knows the Big Ten slate will be grueling. But after a summer playing Sixes and winning a silver medal with the U.S. at The World Games, she feels ready.

“[The Sixes format] is so quick,” Donovan said. “If you do something well, it’s next play. If you make a mistake, it’s next play. That next-play mentality is going to translate in the Big Ten because the competition is so good, and you don’t have time to think about anything but the play in front of you.”

That exact mentality fueled Bosco last season.

“The competition in the Big Ten is so good and continues to get better that there was no time to think about not playing in two years or that you’re going to lose,” Bosco said.

Bosco and Donovan haven’t had the chance to talk and officially bury the hatchet, but there’s mutual respect between the two former Ivy defenders.

“At Princeton, we got fired up to play Penn,” Donovan said. “When we played against her and Penn, they always gave us a heck of a game. I was pumped to hear Abby was coming back…I can’t wait to learn from her and share the field with her.”

Bosco, who had one year of elibility left and announced her return on Aug. 22, came back because she wanted to win a national title. And she thinks Donovan will help the Terps reach that goal.

“She is such a talented defender,” Bosco said. “it’s funny, coming from Princeton and Penn, old rivals. I’m really excited to unite on the field.”

Both have their eyes on national titles but are focusing on Fall Ball first.

“I’m going to take it day by day,” Donovan said. “There’s going to be ups, downs, learning curves. When times get tough, it’s about being grateful, recognizing that I get to be here and part of an incredible program.”

It’s an opportunity neither thought they’d get during the pandemic’s darkest days.

“I always thought that nothing good was ever going to come out of COVID,” Bosco said. “Then, I think about how I would never have gotten to meet the people I met last year…having these two years is definitely a silver lining.”



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