This Thursday, no. 7 Northwestern (13-3, 5-0 Big Ten) travels to the University of Maryland to face the no. 3 Terrapins (15-1, 5-0 Big Ten) for the Big Ten regular season title. As their record indicates, Maryland has is beatable, with their loss coming at the hands of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. If a team can lose a game on the road, it seems logical that they can also lose at home. But this is not a normal team.
The Maryland women’s lacrosse team has not lost a game at home since March 10th, 2012. The last time the Terrapins lost in College Park, Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) by Kelly Clarkson was the no. 1 song in America, The Lorax was the top-grossing film at the box office and Northwestern’s star goalkeeper Julie Krupnick was just 13 years old.
Let’s get into it.
Unfortunately for Northwestern, there isn’t any one stat or trend a team can pick up on to have a significantly better chance at beating Maryland. It’s like trying to move a boulder with one hand versus two hands in that it might not make much of a difference, but if you get enough people and enough hands, you just could make some progress.
The only blueprint for beating this Maryland team was written by North Carolina back in February, and it starts with keeping the number of shots the Terrapins take as low as possible. Maryland is third in the country in shots per game this season with 36, but they only fired off 29 in their only loss. While a seven shot difference may not seem like a lot, Maryland’s ability to convert (the Terrapins boast a .441 shot percentage) means seven shots could lead to three or four goals.
There are three ways to limit another team’s scoring chances: Draw controls, solid defense that runs out the shot clock, and ground ball pickups that prevent second chance opportunities.
With respect to the first, Shelby Fredericks is one of the best draw control artists in the country. As for the second, it won’t be easy, but Northwestern has been excellent defensively this year.
It’s the third that is the key.
The film says Maryland is one of the best team in the country at hustling after a missed or deflected shot, so Northwestern’s defense will be faced with that extra layer of pressure. That said, the ‘Cats have hustle on par with the Terps, and they are in the midst of a red-hot eight-game win streak. With seniors Ally Mueller and Megan Duffy supporting Krupnick on defense, the Wildcats aren’t likely to crack under the pressure.
If Northwestern needs any more inspiration, the Wildcats can look to James Madison University, who came close to beating Maryland at home in 2018. JMU scored on their first possession and went back and forth with Maryland for most of the game. If it weren’t for a 6-2 Maryland run at the end of the first half, James Madison very well could have walked out of College Park with a victory.
Maryland hasn’t lost at home since 2012. That also happens to be the last time Northwestern won the National Championship. The Wildcats hope both of those streaks end this year, starting on Thursday night at 6 p.m.