The stakes were not quite as high Wednesday as they were the last time the Maryland women's lacrosse team visited Johnny Unitas Stadium on the campus of Towson University. The combatants on that occasion were Maryland and Syracuse with the Terps prevailing 15-12 to claim the National Championship.The score wasn't as close Wednesday night as the Terps topped Towson's Tigers 17-2
First half - A sloppy start and a fast finish
The Terps turned the ball over on two of their first three possessions and the Tigers managed to split the game's first four draws. Despite those tiny lapses, Maryland's defense forced Towson into three turnovers and four errant shots. And, when they were able to get shots off, the Terps scored efficiently racing to a 4-0 lead before the game was 13 minutes old.
Maryland's first score came just 1:36 into the game following one of those aforementioned Tigers turnovers as Erin Collins scored on a pass from Shanna Brady as the Terps ran a classic fast break off the turnover. Maryland needed nearly five minutes to get on their second goal on the board as freshman Megan Whittle found the net on a free position shot.
The Terps' third goal came from an unusual source - defender Alice Mercer. In fact, it was the first goal of the junior's career. Taylor Cummings scored on a free position 12:26 into the contest to put the Terps up 4-0. The newly offensive minded Mercer assisted on Whittle's second score.
Cummings then picked up the first of her two first half assists as the Tigers defense chased her outside the twelve meter arc. The junior from McDonogh created some space with a jad step to the right and found Brooke Griffin circling to the near post from behind the net resulting in a 6-0 Maryland lead.
Towson final broke through Maryland's defensive shell with 16:46 to play narrowing the gap to five. Taylor Hensh, yet another Terrapins' freshman, scored to put the Terps up 7-1 but the Tigers' Gabby Cha scored her second of the game to once again bring the home team within five. It was as close as they would come.
Cummings and Griffin would collaborate on the final score of the half with just over a minute to play with Cummings again assisting and Griffin finishing. The half ended with the Terps ahead 8-2.
Second half - The Megan Whittle Show
Whittle completed her hat trick just 1:20 into the half and Cummings scored her second of the game just over two minutes later to provide a 10-2 Maryland advantage. Zoe Stukenberg got on the board nine minutes into the half.
Over the next six minutes, Whittle completed a second and natural hat trick. A save by Alex Fitzpatrick, who was outstanding in goal for Maryland ignited the first of the freshman's three consecutive scores as Maryland again ran a picture perfect fast break with Cummings getting the final pass. The 12-2 lead also started the running clock.
Whittle added two more unassisted goals with the second coming off a rebound on Kelsey Donnelly's save of Hensh's shot. The Terps continued to pour it on over the outmatched Tigers as Cummings found Stukenberg for her second of the game and Hensh notched an unassisted score for her second of the night.
Since it was a night for firsts, another Maryland freshman, Kacie Longo got into the act scoring the first goal of her Terrapins career with 2:07 to play. That closed the scoring for the night as the Terps wrapped up the 17-2.
Fitzpatrick finished with 10 saves on the night for an .833 save percentage. Surprisingly, Towson controlled the draw circle picking up 13 to Maryland's eight. In addition to Whittle's six scores, four other Terps finished as multiple goal scorers. Though she only scored twice, Cumming registered a team high four assists.
The Terps return home to face the fifth ranked Florida Gators Saturday afternoon. Face off is set for noon.