Just four days removed from demolishing the No. 2 team in the country by 10 goals, the top-ranked and two-time defending national champion Maryland women's lacrosse team traveled to No. 16 Penn and beat the Quakers 12-8.
Maryland's victory over Penn caps a brutal five week stretch that included four road games, all against ranked teams. Three of those teams were ranked in the top five.
Maryland has gelled much quicker than anticipated, especially on the defensive end. Offensively, the Terps are as dangerous as ever. While this team doesn't have the pure scorers and experience that was on hand the past two seasons, this squad makes up for it in balance.
Maryland started strong. After Penn had cut the lead to 4-2, Taylor Cummings grabbed the draw control, raced down the field and scored just 10 seconds later. In just 15 minutes, Cummings had racked up a hat trick along with six draw controls. Kacie Longo tallied another goal for the Terps a mere 33 seconds later to make it a 6-2 game. Maryland would take an 8-2 lead into the break. The Terps had a staggering 19 shots in the first half, 15 of which were on goal, while the Quakers only managed five total shots in the game's first 30 minutes.
The second half started much like the first one did. Caroline Steele scored just 30 seconds in. The Terps went on a 4-0 run over the first 10 minutes of the second half to push the lead into double digits. However, the Quakers closed the game with a 6-0 run of their own.
This was a good win for Maryland (7-0), but the Terps should not have allowed Penn (6-2) to work its way back into the game. The Quakers are good, but they aren't so good where they are expected to score six goals on Maryland in a span of 15 minutes. Head coach Cathy Reese told me that when her team plays really well, it's a double-edged sword because she has to look hard for things to improve on. When the Terps return to College Park, my gut tells me that Reese will continue to stress and work on playing consistently for 60 minutes. That is the biggest weakness that I see in this team right now.
The Terps are capable of running the table the rest of the way, but in order to win their third straight national championship, they will have to play hard, play smart, and play Maryland lacrosse for a full 60 minutes.
Three things to know
1. Megan Whittle and Taylor Cummings controlled the action.Cummings and Whittle combined to score Maryland's first five goals of the game. Cummings picked up a hat trick and six draw controls in the first 15 minutes of the game, and she was also solid defensively. Whittle picked up her hat trick in the second half. The pair combined to score eight of Maryland's 12 goals. Cummings' stat line was outstanding. She finished with four goals, 10 draw controls, three ground balls and three caused turnovers.
2. Maryland's defense has been locked in lately during the first halves of games.After holding No. 2 Florida to just four goals in Gainesville, the Terps shut down the Quakers in Philly. Megan Taylor, Alice Mercer and Nadine Hadnagy deserve so much credit, as do Cummings, Morgan Torggler, Julia Braig and Alex McKay. For the second game in a row, Maryland's defense went on the road and held a ranked opponent to just two first half goals. The Terps have yet to allow double digit goals in a game this season. As great as this unit played in the first half against Penn, ot left a lot to be desired in the second half as Penn went on a 6-0 run over the last 16 minutes of the game.
3. The Terps took their foot off the gas in the last 20 minutes of the game. After Maryland took a 12-2 lead with 20:43 left to play, Penn went on a 6-0 run to close out the game. The Terps need to learn from this and make sure that they don't get complacent during games.