Top-ranked and two-time defending national champion Maryland women's lacrosse won its Big Ten opener against No. 14 Northwestern, 17-4, on Thursday night in College Park.
The first half was all Maryland. Megan Whittle scored the game's first goal just 54 seconds into the contest, and the Terps started the game with a 4-0 run. All four goals came in the first five minutes. It took Northwestern over 22 minutes just to score its first goal of the game.
Taylor Cummings started to exert her dominance in the second half, scoring the first two goals of the half in a span of 29 seconds. After her pair of goals, Maryland led 7-2 with 27:40 left to play. Both teams traded goals before the Terps blitzed the Wildcats in what was probably the most important stretch of the game. After Jen Giles scored an unassisted goal with 21:31 left to play, Megan Whittle scored her third goal of the game just 12 seconds later and Caroline Steele added a goal 18 seconds after that. In a span of 30 seconds, the Terps scored three goals and went up 11-3 in the blink of an eye. Maryland kept the pedal to the floor, outscoring Northwestern 6-2 the rest of the way.
There's a lot to unpack in this game. Taylor Cummings outscored Northwestern by herself. Cathy Reese won her 100th game at home as Maryland head coach. Seven Terps scored goals and Northwestern's Selena Lasota was held without a goal or an assist. The Terps beat rival Northwestern by 11 in the regular season last year, by 12 in the Elite Eight, and then by 13 tonight. Maryland matched its season-low in goals allowed with four.
It boils down to two words. Great and complete. Maryland is a great team and the Terps (9-0, 1-0) played their most complete game of the season.
"They took advantage of their opportunities. We didn't...There's a fine line between being good and being great, and they were great today," said Northwestern's head coach, Kelly Amonte Hiller, after the game.
"We played a really complete game tonight," Reese said. "I love this group. They're playing so hard, they're playing so well, they're playing so great together right now. Our defense is connecting to a whole other level."
The Terps scored two goals in a span of 23 seconds in the first half, three in a 30 second span in the second half and had two different instances where they scored two goals in less than a minute in the second half. The game was won in those spurts.
The best team in the nation played like it tonight from start to finish. Their top-10 offense exploded in the second half for 12 goals and their top-10 defense smothered the Wildcats for 60 minutes. In a game that was broadcast on the Big Ten Network, Maryland women's lacrosse delivered a very clear statement to the rest of the conference and the rest of the country.
Three things to know
1. Maryland put together another great defensive effort in the first half
The Terps held Northwestern scoreless for 22 minutes and 22 seconds before Kaleigh Craig got the Wildcats on the board. Maryland's defense has been superb in the first halves of games this season. The Terrapins held UNC to one goal, Syracuse to five, Florida to two and Northwestern to two.
Alice Mercer, a senior defender and captain, said that freshman goalie Megan Taylor has surpassed their expectations. Taylor had another outstanding performance in net, allowing only four goals while picking up 11 saves.
Maryland put forth a dominant and complete defensive effort tonight. Megan Whittle, Maryland's super sophomore attacker, lavished praise on the defense. "I thought our defense played the best game I've ever seen a Maryland defense play."
2. Maryland got its first half goals from high volume shooting, not from high percentage looks
The Terps needed 17 shots to get their five first-half goals. Only one came off of a free position attempt. Things opened up in the second half as Maryland scored 12 goals, three of which came in a span of just 30 seconds. Cummings and Whittle combined for seven goals in the second half.
3. Taylor Cummings and Megan Whittle played like, well, Taylor Cummings and Megan Whittle
These two are playing on a different level right now. Whittle scored nine goals in her two games last week and then torched the Wildcats for four goals on Thursday night. Cummings had seven goals in her past two games and completely and utterly dominated Northwestern. She had five goals, seven draw controls, six ground balls and four caused turnovers. It was nothing short of a superstar performance from the two-time defending Tewaaraton Award winner.
"We're just having fun...It's really fun being able to play alongside her," Whittle said after the game.