Maryland women’s lacrosse faced a tall task this spring: defending a national championship season in which it went undefeated. But thanks to a 20-16 victory over No. 7 Northwestern to win the Big Ten regular season title, the Terrapins are well on their way to another national championship run.
Captains Megan Whittle and Jen Giles lead the Terps’ box score, a fitting result for the regular season finale. They each scored four goals in the blowout win, with Giles adding two assists to her impressive 2018 resume. Neither was particularly efficient, but they did enough to secure the title.
In the biggest game of the year to date, it was Whittle who opened up the scoring. After numerous chances for the Terps were stymied, the Tewaaraton Award nominee took it upon herself to start the game off right.
Despite Northwestern’s defensive prowess, Maryland continued its run to break the game open before it ever truly began. Giles followed up with a goal of her own just two minutes after Whittle’s, and Brindi Griffin free-position conversion made it a 3-0 Terrapins lead less than six minutes in. After a yellow card was assessed on Wildcats superstar Selena Lasota, Maryland had a man-up advantage. It didn’t take long for the Terps to capitalize, as Giles notched her second score of the game 29 seconds later.
The next three minutes consisted of some sloppy play from both sides, but Shelby Fredericks finally put Northwestern on the board at the 20:23 mark. But that was immediately answered by a duo of Maryland goals by Whittle and Giles, the latter earning a hat trick early in the game.
In the 10 minutes following Giles’ goal, an astounding 10 goals were scored, five by each team. Thanks to some great shooting combined with questionable goaltending, the score turned from 6-1 to 11-6 in a flash. Among the standouts were Sheila Nesselbush and Caroline Steele for Northwestern and Maryland, respectively, who scored two goals apiece.
Griffin extended the lead to six with 6:27 to go, scoring her second goal of the game. The rest of the half consisted of brutal physicality by both sides and included a controversial no-goal after a charge was called on Megan Siverson. But that didn’t faze the Terps, as they scored two of the three remaining goals to take a 14-7 lead into the halftime break.
It barely took a minute for Griffin to get her hat trick to kick off the second-half scoring, and it seemed as though the rout was on. But Northwestern is a top-10 team for a reason, and the rest of the game showed just how talented a team it is.
The Wildcats took out starting goaltender Julie Krupnick in favor of junior Mallory Weisse, and that was just the spark they needed. Weisse delivered time and time again, saving five straight shots to keep Maryland off the scoreboard. And with her team down eight goals, she bought them time to mount a comeback.
Lasota kicked things off with a score, which was immediately followed by Nesselbush’s third goal of the game. Off a great feed from assists-leader Shelby Fredericks, Lindsey McKone put one past Megan Taylor to cut their deficit to five. Almost five minutes passed since McKone’s goal when the sophomore scored again to cut Maryland’s lead to four.
The physicality stayed, as the referees continually had to insert themselves into the game. Yellow cards were being given left and right, and one was especially costly for Northwestern. Lasota picked up her second of the game, disqualifying her the rest of the way. Just like that, the Wildcats’ leading point-scorer was gone.
That was the opening Maryland needed to pull away. Whittle put her team back on the board, and Steele got the lead back to six. And after a Nicole Beardsley goal, Siverson and Whittle scored twice within 11 seconds to push the score to 19-12.
That mini-run effectively ended the game, as Northwestern’s late spark only tightened the score without ever truly threatening the final outcome. After it was all said and done, Maryland was Big Ten Regular Season Champions.
Their next game will come in the Big Ten Tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan next weekend. The time, date, and opponent are still to be determined, but one thing is certain: Maryland is hungry for another trophy.
Three Things to Know
1. Maryland won the regular season. As if there was any doubt, the Terps completed another dominating campaign. A 16-1 overall record and a perfect 6-0 mark in conference play are the results, but for a program as elite as Maryland’s the real season is just about to start.
2. Megan Taylor wasn’t on her game. The reigning National Goaltender of the Year had improved her level of play in every game this season, but the junior took a step in the wrong direction in the regular season finale. With just eight stops, her save percentage was a brutal .333. Her play picked up in the second half, though, helping keep the Terps ahead.
3. Whittle was inefficient and unlucky. The senior did her thing, scoring four goals to pace the Terps. But Whittle took 12 shots, not converting at her usual rate. Two of her shots did hit the post, which deflated her numbers. Still, she’ll need to be more efficient in the postseason.