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No Doubt! #1 UMD WLAX Makes History and Embarrasses #4 Northwestern, 16-5

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Top-ranked Maryland crushed fourth-ranked Northwestern in Evanston on Thursday night in the first ever Big Ten Women's Lacrosse game.

A History Lesson

If you want to get some context and learn about the rich history and rivalry between these two programs, I encourage you (nay, I beseech you!) to read this preview from Todd Carton. This is the first ever conference game for women's lacrosse in Big Ten history. Maryland has taken on all comers and won this season. They have knocked off three teams ranked in the top six in the country. The defending champion and top-ranked Terps took on the fourth-ranked Wildcats, who are perfect at home this season.

Heads up

Maryland's non-revenue sports have struggled against Northwestern in Evanston in their inaugural season in the Big Ten. Field Hockey lost 3-2 in their first ever Big Ten conference game. They would later lose to Northwestern again in the Big Ten Championship game. Men's Soccer also lost to Northwestern 3-2 although they fell in overtime. Volleyball lost 3-2 though they would later get their revenge on senior day in College Park. Wrestling lost 26-18.

Women's Soccer managed a 0-0 tie at Ludwig Field. That tie, combined with Volleyball's senior day win, gives Maryland a head-to-head record of 1-5-1 against Northwestern including an 0-5 record in Evanston.

First Half

Taylor Cummings got Maryland started quickly. She got the opening draw control, raced down the field and scored in just 13 seconds. Megan Whittle, Maryland's star freshman, had an eight meter attempt near the 28 minute mark but it was saved by Northwestern's savvy senior goalie Bridget Bianco.

Selena Lasota, Northwestern's star freshman and top scorer, tied it up at one apiece with 27:03 left to play in the first half. She averages four goals a game and Northwestern tried to establish her early on. Northwestern took the next draw but Maryland was able to turn the Wildcats away. Maryland made the most of their possession as Zoe Stukenberg took an eight meter from the left side and converted for her 19th goal of the year.

Later in the half, Alex Fitzpatrick made a great low save on Lasota's eight meter to give Maryland back possession. Maryland came down the field and Zoe Stukenberg found Megan Whittle posted up on the left side. Whittle worked and got inside position and put a bounce shot past Bianco to give Maryland a 3-1 lead.

Northwestern struck back quickly though. Sheila Nesselbush had a beautiful shot fake, switched hands and put one past Fitzpatrick for her ninth goal of the year as Lasota found the soft spot in the middle of the Maryland zone. Maryland kept the pressure on as McPartland found a streaking Whittle down the right side. Whittle put another bounce shot past Bianco for her second goal of the game. It was a picture perfect assist and finish to give Maryland a 4-2 lead. With 6:57 left to play in the half, three of the six goals in the game had been scored by freshmen.

After the media timeout it was all Maryland. Taylor Cummings put a beautiful touch on a pass for Brooke Griffin down the right side of the field. Griffin caught it over her shoulder and shot quickly to push Maryland's lead to three. Maryland put up another goal quickly as Stukenberg found Griffin right in front of the Northwestern goal. Griffin decided to add to her career highlight-reel, going behind the back for her second goal of the game. Stukenberg took a pass from McPartland on the very next Maryland offensive possession and blew past her defender. She launched a rocket from the right side into the left side of the goal and gave Maryland a commanding 7-2 lead.

Stukenberg drew an eight meter on the next Maryland possession but her shot missed wide with four minutes left to play. However, Maryland maintained possession. On the restart, Kristen Lamon saw her defender out of position and ran around the crease. She used her 5'9'' height to her advantage and put a shot in over the top of her defender. Bianco really didn't have much of a chance on it and Maryland had scored five goals in about three minutes.

Megan Douty made her presence felt with about a minute and half to play as she knocked down a Northwestern pass in the Maryland third to help give Maryland possession. On the other end, Whittle took an eight meter and scored with 59 seconds left in the half to notch a hat-trick and give Maryland a 9-2 lead. It was her 31st goal of the year. Maryland's defense shut down Northwestern and didn't let the Wildcats put up a shot before the half ended.

Maryland scored six unanswered goals over the last seven minutes of the half. The Terps led 8-4 in draw controls and scored nine goals on 14 shots. In addition to Whittle's hat-trick, Stukenberg had two goals and two assists and Cummings had a goal, an assist, six draw controls and three ground balls.

Second Half

Cummings picked up the opening draw control of the second half. Bianco made a big save to stop the bleeding as Northwestern tried to get back into the game. Shelby Fredericks put up a quick goal as she was too strong for Nadine Hadnagy. However, Cathy Reese called for a stick check and the stick was deemed to be illegal. The goal was wiped out.

Maryland got out and ran as they are wont to do and Kristen Lamon found Megan Whittle on the fast-break. Whittle shot a one-timer past Bianco to give Maryland an eight goal lead. This was a big two goal swing as Northwestern's goal was wiped out and Maryland tacked on another goal. Maryland kept the pedal on the floor on their next possession as nobody accounted for Kristen Lamon as she made a run from behind the cage. Cummings threw it up in the air and Lamon jumped into the air and shot it immediately for her second goal of the game.

Maryland put up another quick goal as Kelly McPartland took it solo going across her body with 26:05 left in the game and Northwestern was forced to call timeout. At this point in the game, the score was 12-2 and what was supposed to be a competitive game between top-five programs had become a complete and total rout. McPartland's goal had me feeling like this:

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On Maryland's next offensive possession, Cummings blew by her defender and earned an eight meter attempt but it was saved by Bianco. Lasota finally got Northwestern back on the board with her 30th goal of the season with just under 20 minutes to go in the game. Lasota made a fantastic individual effort to steal back possession for Northwestern but an errant pass turned the ball back over to the Terps. McPartland pushed the lead back to ten as she utilized a pretty spin move and finished high with 16:45 left in the game. Taylor Cummings grabbed the ensuing draw, led the fast break and finished it off herself. Her second goal of the game was her 30th of the season. The score was now 14-3.

Lasota notched a hat-trick off of an eight meter but the Wildcats still trailed by 10. Megan Whittle answered back by scoring her fifth goal of the game off of an eight meter with 12:51 left in the game. Kelly McPartland notched a hat-trick with an absolutely nasty shot fake and almost shoveled the ball into the goal to make it 16-4. It was actually a pretty weak shot compared to what you would normally see on a lacrosse field at this level but Bianco had been drawn out of the goal and she had no chance at it. Northwestern's head coach, Kelly Amonte-Hiller, pulled Bianco after she had been shelled for 16 goals.

Fitzpatrick made a nice save against Lasota to give Maryland back possession and the Terps drained the clock. Brooke Jones saved a shot from Cummings and Northwestern picked up a goal from Kara Mupo with two minutes left in the game that made it 16-5. After an errant pass from Northwestern, Maryland ran out the rest of the clock to close out their dominant win.

Recap

Let's start out with the basics. It's hard to win the game when you don't win the draw. Maryland (10-0, 1-0) dominated the draw control in this game, holding an 18-5 edge over Northwestern (5-3, 0-1). Draw controls means possessions. Maryland is phenomenal at putting the ball into the net and you just can't give an offense this talented that many opportunities and expect to win.

Maryland's defense was phenomenal as well. They held Northwestern to just 12 shots on goal and an absolutely terrible true shooting percentage. Megan Douty helped hold Lasota to three goals when she averages four per game and the team forced Northwestern into six turnovers. Fitzpatrick had seven saves and allowed only five goals.

Typically, Northwestern matches up well with Maryland and forces them into lower scoring games. It was 4-2 with just under seven minutes to play in the first half. Taylor Cummings sparked the Maryland offense and that really determined the outcome of this game. The first five or six minutes of the second half were important as well. Northwestern had a goal wiped out because Cathy Resse wisely called for a stick check and the stick was determined to be illegal. After the goal was wiped out, Maryland turned around and scored three straight goals to make it 12-2 and the game never felt remotely close after that.

There were two stars in this game and they both had Maryland flags on the back of their jerseys. Taylor Cummings is the star player that makes other star players look pedestrian. She dominated this game even without scoring a lot. The reigning Tewaaraton Award winner had two goals, three assists, three ground balls and 13 draw controls.

The other star was freshman Megan Whittle. She scored five goals against a very, very good defense in a tough road atmosphere in a nationally televised game. She has stepped up big in Maryland's biggest games and she told me after the UNC game that her teammates keep telling her, "You deserve to be out here. You can play big." She has been utterly sensational for the Terps this season and she has shined the most when the lights are brightest.

Bottom Line

When Maryland beat a top-10 Syracuse team 10-7 in a rematch of the national title game on March 7th in College Park, this is what I wrote in the very last paragraph of my story:

"We have not seen Maryland's best lacrosse this season and we certainly haven't seen them play to their potential on offense. When this team figures that piece out and starts firing on all cylinders, watch out."

It looks like they have figured it out. This was Maryland's best game this season by far. If Maryland is firing on all cylinders like they were tonight, they will not lose this season and they will win a second consecutive national title.

They had everything going tonight. They had efficient offense in the first half, scoring nine times on 14 shots. The Terps had six players combine for 16 goals. No one scored fewer than two. Maryland head coach Cathy Reese has preached ball movement and Maryland had seven assists on their 16 goals. They were finding their teammates in the right spots and executing to perfection.

They had phenomenal defense, limiting a very talented Northwestern offense to two goals in the first half and five goals for the entire game. They dominated on the draw beating the Wildcats 18-5. Taylor Cummings had 13 draw controls all by herself.

The bottom line is that the Terps just went on the road and embarrassed a top-five team who has won seven national titles in the last ten years. Maryland is the best team in the country right now (and has been since the season started) and if they keep playing like this, no one will be able to stop them.