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Maryland women’s lacrosse vs. Princeton preview

The Terps head north to take on the Tigers.

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

Back on February 24, the almost-unthinkable happened: Maryland women’s lacrosse lost a game. In Chapel Hill against a top-10 North Carolina team, the defending national champions fell in overtime, 16-15.

It was the Terps’ first loss since the 2016 national championship game, in which they also fell to the Tar Heels. And although titles aren’t won or lost in February, a defeat in just the third game could’ve easily knocked the season off course.

But Maryland did what Maryland does, and the Terps have won 10 straight since that afternoon. And they’ve done it in dominating fashion, winning by an average of 7.6 goals per contest.

With only four games left in the regular season, a 16-1 record heading into the Big Ten tournament is well within reach. In fact, it’s expected, given that only one of Maryland’s remaining opponents is ranked.

The next stop on the domination tour is a trip to New Jersey to face off against Princeton. The Tigers are currently on a two-game winning streak, most recently knocking off Harvard, 20-15.

Princeton Tigers (6-4)

2017 record: 15-4, 6-1 Ivy

Head coach Chris Sailor is in her 32nd season as the leader of Princeton’s women’s lacrosse program. A US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame inductee, Sailor is one of the most renowned coaches in the entire sport. In addition to winning three national championships, she’s also a three-time National Coach of the Year Award winner. Her career record of 392-156 (.715) speaks for itself, and the Tigers continue to be one of the best programs in the country.

Players to know

Freshman midfielder Kyla Sears, No. 7. It may be her first season on campus, but Sears is already the leader of Princeton’s offense. The 2017 US Lacrosse National Player of the Year has certainly lived up to the hype thus far, leading the team in points with 33 goals and 13 assists. It’s been an amazing start to Sears’ career, and it’ll be interesting to see just how good she’ll continue to get.

Freshman goalie Sam Fish, No. 12. Not only is Princeton’s offense led by a standout freshman, but its goaltender is a first-year player as well. Fish started the season on the bench, but thanks to her outstanding play she has earned the starting job. The starter in each of the past two games, Fish has posted a remarkable .523 save percentage. She doesn’t have enough playing time yet to qualify, but that would put her in the top-10 in the country.

Three things to watch

1. Can this be Megan Whittle’s day? Due to an injury that saw her miss some time, Whittle was held to just two goals on senior day against Rutgers. That means that her breaking of Jen Adams’ career goals record will likely come on the road. It’ll take three scores to tie and four to break it, and based on her track record that means Tuesday could be the day Whittle becomes the all-time leading goal scorer.

2. How do the final four games go? They’ll be played over a course of two and a half weeks, so the regular season isn’t over just yet. But the year has come and gone very quickly, and the postseason is just around the corner. Although Maryland doesn’t hang banners for great regular seasons, a 16-1 record heading into May would be impressive nonetheless.

3. Can the offense put together a great performance? It’s hard to fault a team for winning 10 games in a row, but the offense still hasn’t had a 60-minute dominating showing. Inefficiency has plagued the Terps all year, and that continued against Rutgers. Maryland had just 14 goals on 35 shots as they missed a ton of open looks. Another growing issue is the failure to capitalize on free-position opportunities (5-of-9). It hasn’t hurt them yet, but they need to perform better.