After two straight victories to begin its national title defense, Maryland women’s lacrosse lost its first game since 2016, falling in overtime to No. 8 North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Maryland blew multiple leads throughout the game, including a 15-13 advantage with eight minutes to play. Two late goals from UNC forced overtime, and Marie McCool’s finish at the net ended the Terps’ hopes of a perfect season.
For Maryland, the usual suspects delivered offensively. Jen Giles and Caroline Steele led the team with four points each, and Megan Whittle delivered with three of her own. Two goals from Taylor Hensh were a big boost in the first half to get out to a sizable lead early, and more production from her could be the X-factor this team needs. McCool and Jamie Ortega tied the game-lead in goals with four apiece.
The Tar Heels started off the scoring with a goal from Ally Mastroianni, but a team as seasoned as Maryland didn’t let that faze them. Off a beautiful feed from Caroline Steele, Kali Hartshorn was able to put one in the back of the net, her third of the season. Despite a small run from UNC that saw them take a 3-1 lead, the Terps looked to leading scorer Megan Whittle to push back. Her tenth goal of the season sparked a 6-0 run for the No. 1 team in the country that included an incredible five scores in just over three minutes.
McCool, who later became the hero for the Tar Heels, scored to break Maryland’s run. After a flurry of goals from the home team, the squads entered halftime with the Terps up 9-8.
Once again, it was McCool who opened up the second half scoring with her 17th goal of the season. The teams battled back and forth to tie things up at 11-all before junior Jen Giles came in with a big goal to take the lead. Grace Griffin, a freshman who has received more playing time thanks to her success in limited minutes, extended the lead to 13-11.
When Giles scored her third goal of the game to put Maryland up late, it seemed as though the Terps would pull away. After all, it’s what they’ve done consistently over the last calendar year. But solid defense and goaltender play from UNC kept the Terrapins off the scoreboard, and as Ortega scored for the fourth time to cut the lead to one, a sense of anxiousness grew in the hearts of the Terps.
With just 22 seconds left in the game, Ela Hazar found her way inside the crease. Megan Taylor, last year’s National Goaltender of the Year, couldn’t stop her before the game was tied up.
North Carolina grabbed possession in overtime, and the Terps wouldn’t see the ball again. McCool, one of the best scorers in the country, found her way inside with the ball just long enough to give Maryland its first loss since 2016, when the Tar Heels stunned the then-undefeated Terps in the national championship game.
After two straight road games against top-10 opponents—the Terps beat then-No. 3 Florida in Gainesville last week—the schedule lightens up, as Maryland comes home to face off against UMBC and Hofstra. Cathy Reese’s team will hope to find its groove and get the season back on track.
Three things to know
1. It’s not the end of the world. Once a team gets to experience an undefeated season, it’s hard to go back to normalcy. This loss hurts, but it can help Maryland grow and learn from it. After all, the ultimate goal of a season isn’t a zero in the loss column—it’s a national championship. That hope is still alive and well.
2. But there’s a lot to take away from this game. The defense was vulnerable inside all game, and Maryland’s anchor couldn’t pick up the slack. Megan Taylor only saved six shots against 16 goals for a save percentage of .273. Her play has certainly taken a backseat so far this season, and that’ll have to improve.
3. The offense is still thriving. It’s not as if the Terrapins’ offense disappeared throughout the game. They put up 15 goals in this contest, a number that the team would be happy with coming into the game. It ended up being short of what they needed, but similar performances from this unit will be more than fine going forward.