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Maryland women’s lacrosse vs. Penn State preview

The Terps host the Nittany Lions for a Final Four rematch.

NCAA Lacrosse: Women's Championships Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to a 20-5 beatdown of Ohio State on Sunday, Maryland women’s lacrosse has won 12 straight games and Megan Whittle has broken the program’s all-time goals scored record, passing Jen Adams’ previous mark of 267 with her hat trick against the Buckeyes.

Although Whittle garnered all of the attention for the win, it was Caroline Steele and Kali Hartshorn who carried the Terrapins to such a dominating victory, combining for nine goals and two assists to lead the offensive barrage.

Sunday’s game in Columbus was the last regular-season road game for the Terps, who finish things up with back-to-back home contests against top-20 teams. First on the docket is No. 15 Penn State, a team that is coming off a 17-13 defeat to No. 7 Northwestern, Maryland’s next opponent.

Thursday’s showdown is slated to begin at 7 p.m. ET and is being televised on the Big Ten Network.

Penn State Nittany Lions (9-5, 3-1 Big Ten)

2017 record: 17-4, 6-1

Head coach Missy Doherty is now in her eighth season in Happy Valley after serving for seven years at Towson. The former three-time national champion at Maryland has seen sustained success in her 14-plus years as a head coach, posting winning seasons in 12 of them and well on her way to another one this year. Under Doherty’s leadership, Penn State has made back-to-back NCAA Final Four appearances, losing to the Terrapins 20-10 in Foxborough last year.

Players to know

Sophomore attacker Maria Auth, No. 26. In her second season at Penn State, Auth has shined and has vastly exceeded her prior stat totals. After scoring 18 goals and adding 12 assists in 2017, she now has 52 points through just 14 games thus far. Her 43 goals rank third on the team (just two behind the leader) and she’s also registered nine assists.

Senior midfielder Katie O’Donnell, No. 5. Currently the outright leader in goals scored with 45, O’Donnell is the second member of the trio of players that has led Penn State to a national ranking this season. Her 65 goals and six assists earned her All-American honors last season, and there’s a good chance she can match or best those marks if the Nittany Lions make a deep run once again come May. (Editor’s note: no relation to the Katie O’Donnell who played field hockey at Maryland and now coaches the Terps as Katie Bam.)

Junior attacker/midfielder Madison Carter, No. 24. Rounding out the “Big Three” of the Nittany Lions attack is Carter, who was also named an All-American this past season. Her 44 goals have her right in the middle of O’Donnell and Auth, but that ranking could easily change in the coming weeks. In 2017, Carter was a Tewaaraton Award nominee thanks to an astounding 70-goal season.

Three things to know

1. It’s a revenge game for Penn State. The Nittany Lions were rolling in the NCAA Tournament before running into an undefeated Terps team in the Final Four. After only losing by two goals in the regular season matchup between the two teams, Penn State likely expected to keep things close again when it mattered most. But the Nittany Lions were on the wrong end of a blowout in Foxborough, and they haven’t forgotten about that.

2. Another top-20 matchup for Maryland. Outside of a Saturday game early in the season in Chapel Hill, the opponent hasn’t mattered for the Terrapins so far this season, especially at home. Penn State may be nationally ranked, but even the best teams in the country not named Maryland have had a tough time getting anything going in College Park.

3. Whittle’s record watch is over. The senior broke the school scoring record Sunday, and expressed relief that it’s something she doesn’t have to think about anymore. Now, it’s full steam ahead to defend the national championship on Long Island during Memorial Day weekend. Individual accolades are great, but they can be fleeting. Adding another national title to the trophy case will last forever if it can be accomplished once again.