The Terps wore white. The Gators wore blue. The sky wore gray and dripped moisture for most of Saturday's early afternoon women's lacrosse contest between fifth-ranked Florida and and top-ranked Maryland. The weather didn't deter the Terrapins from keeping their perfect season in tact as the Terps emerged with a 16-6 win in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
First half - A late blitz
The game got off to a bang-bang start. Florida won the opening draw and quickly worked to isolate its star 2014 Tewaaraton finalist Shannon Gilroy whose first shot hit the crossbar. The Gators retained possession and Gilroy's second shot found the net.
Maryland won the next two draws and used the advantage to take a 2-1 lead. The first score came when Erin Collins picked up the rebound and put it behind Gators' goalie Mary-Sean Wilcox who had made the save on Kelly McPartland's free position attempt. The second also came after Wilcox had made a save on yet another Terrapins' free position attempt this one by Megan Whittle.
Whittle picked up her own ground ball and the Terps reset the offense. McPartland came off a screen from Taylor Cummings to score on a dodge from the top of the 12 meter arc.
Five minutes later, Whittle worked for another free position chance this one from the right hash. The freshman put the ball high inside the near post and Maryland had a 3-1 lead.
Florida responded with a goal when Sammi Burgess scored on a dodge down the left alley. The Terps needed just 17 seconds to open the lead back to two as Taylor Cummings scored on a pass from Brooke Griffin. Thirty-three second later the Gators drew back within one using three crisp passes to find Mollie Stevens open inthe middle of Maryland's defense.
After two Terrapins' turnovers and two saves by Maryland goalkeeper Alex Fitzpatrick, McPartland restored a two goal margin with a free position shot that put the Terps up 5-3. The advantage was short lived as the Gators put together back to back scores first by Gilroy and then Carly Ross who scored on a free position attempt with a player advantage after McPartland was issued a yellow card. "I thought we came out a little hesitant," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said after the game. "We weren't really doing the things we normally do in the first 20 minutes of the game. We kind of settled in the last 10 minutes of the first half and were really able to control what we wanted to in the second half."
The teams engaged in a stretch of sloppy pay trading a sequence of turnovers. The Terps finally recaptured a 6-5 lead on Whittle's second goal of the game with 6:04 to play as Griffin garnered her second assist of the half. Griffin picked up a third assist and Cummings a second goal with 2:39 left that began a Maryland blitz to close the half.
After Cummings was called for starting early on a free position, Burgess received a yellow card for a dangerous shot that hit Nadine Hadnagy in the face. On Maryland's clear, McPartland made a long diagonal pass to Zoe Stukenberg who put the ball past a helpless WIlcox with 35 seconds to play in the half.
But the Terps weren't done. Cummings drew a foul while picking up her fifth draw control of the half. She found Whittle who raced down the filed splitting two Gators' defenders and put the ball in the top shelf picking up a hat trick for the second consecutive half after scoring four times in Wednesday's second half at Towson. The Terps took a 9-5 lead into the break.
For the half, Maryland held slim margins in shots (16-15) and draw controls (9-6). Firzpatrick added four saves on Florida's nine shots on goal.
Second half - Total domination
Erin Collins picked up the ground ball on the opening draw but solid defense by Florida held the Terps without a shot for over three minutes. Whittle and McPartand saw Wilcox make saves on two Maryland free position attempts but with 4:57 elapsed McPartland finally found the net on a free position from the top of the eight meter opening the Terrapins' lead to 10-5.
The Terps appeared content to work for good shot opportunities and, while Florida's defense effectively caused some errant passes, the Terps were exceptional in getting to ground balls and extending possessions. Two minutes after Kristin Lamon went down with an injury, Griffin scored her first of the game a bouncer past Wilcox ona free position.
The Gators scored for the first time in over 29 minutes of game time on Devon Schneider's free position with 18:03 to play. Casey Pepperman grabbed the subsequent draw allowing The Terps to run another three minutes off the clock before Cummings made a dodge down the left alley and found Griffin open at the far post to extend Maryland's lead to 12-6.
The Terps opened the lead to seven goals after another two minute possession on nearly the identical play except that Zoe Stukenberg initiated the action down the left. The goalies exchanged saves before Griffin picked up her third consecutive score and fourth of the game on a Sports Center highlight over the shoulder back to the net goal. WIth 9:01 to play, the Terps led 14-6.
But the Terps still weren't done. After another long possession Zoe Stukenberg found the net on a low shot that trickled past Wilcox. Griffin's fifth goal of the half with 3:38 to play came on a long pass from the top by McPartland. The senior faked high and went low to give Maryland a 16-6 lead and start the running clock.
Pepperman picked up the ground ball on the ensuing draw and the Terps were content to run the clock for a dominating 16-6 win that improved their record to 7-0 on the season and also gave Reese her 200th career win as a head coach.
Fitzgerald was again outstanding in goal for Maryland finishing with seven goals behind a stifling Maryland defense that held the high powered Gators offense more than 10 goals below their season average. The defense was aided by Maryland's 6-3 second half advantage on draws and a strategy of long possessions that also limited the Gators to just five shots in the second half. After seven first half turnovers, Maryland had none in the second half.
Said Reese, "Early in the season we were generating a ton of shots and we weren't scoring on them. We really addressed that after the Syracuse game."
The Terps continue their three game home stand when they host the 13th ranked Penn Quakers Wednesday night. Face off is scheduled for 7:00 pm.