Maryland women’s lacrosse hasn’t lost its first game of the NCAA Tournament since 2006. After earning the No. 1 seed, the Terrapins’ first showing came Sunday in the second round against Denver. The streak easily remained intact, as Maryland ran to a wire-to-wire 15-4 victory.
Megan Whittle not only led the box score once again for the Terps, but she also reached another milestone to add to her impressive resume. Whittle’s first goal of the game tied Temple legend Gail Cummings for second-most in NCAA history with 289 goals in her career. Less than 10 minutes later, she was in sole possession of second place.
On the day, the senior Tewaaraton Award nominee had six goals to pace the team, but she got a ton of help. Caroline Steele added four of her own in a great shooting performance, and Jen Giles became the third Terrapins player to record a hat trick.
Denver looked to have struck first, as Quintin Hoch-Bullen found her way inside and ripped a shot past Megan Taylor. But the goal was taken off the board for a crease violation, and less than 30 seconds later, Whittle scored to give Maryland the lead. That was the start of a four-goal run for the Terps, giving them a lead they’d never relinquish.
The second goal came from Meghan Siverson on a free-position shot, foreshadowing how Maryland would get out to the lead that it did. Less than two minutes later, Caroline Steele converted on the eight-meter line as well. Whittle delivered one of her own at the 20:38 mark, and it was a 4-0 Maryland lead less than 10 minutes into the contest.
Thanks to tremendous defense and goalkeeping on both sides, the 4-0 score held for nearly 13 minutes, and when the lid came off the nets, it was Denver who capitalized. Freshman Eliza Radochonski took a feed from Caitlin Derry to put the Pioneers on the scoreboard. But as Whittle’s goal had done earlier in the half, Radochonski’s score at the 8:00 mark sent the game into a scoring freeze.
Megan Taylor played great throughout, but her first-half performance to this point was special. She tallied save after save to keep Maryland’s lead safe while the offense was stymied. It was a near-perfect showing until Hoch-Bullen’s free-position goal with 25 seconds left cut the Pioneers’ deficit to two heading into the break.
After being held scoreless for the final 20 minutes of the first half, Whittle decided to take matters into her own hands. After being fouled inside the arc, she was put on the eight-meter line just over three minutes into the second half. She converted easily, and then scored again two minutes later for good measure.
Radochonski’s second goal of the game made the score 6-3, and then some controversy took place. With the shot clock nearing zero for Denver, Derry took a shot that went wide as she was fouled. The 90-second timer should’ve expired, but it was apparently reset prematurely. After the game was stopped for a few minutes, Derry was ultimately awarded a free-position opportunity that cut Maryland’s lead to two goals.
Getting that favorable call may have been the worst thing for the Pioneers, because from that point the Terrapins played with a ferociousness that hadn’t been seen in the first 40 minutes. An eight-goal Terps run not only put the nail in Denver’s NCAA Tournament, but it turned the once-close game into a blowout.
Jen Giles scored two goals in the span of a minute of game time, and Steele did the same thing right after. Five more goals were scored by the Terps, including two from Whittle to add to her total that once again led Maryland.
The Terps will play Navy in College Park next weekend.
Three things to know
1. Megan Whittle is good. If it wasn’t clear at this point in her career, Whittle is one of the best players in the history of women’s college lacrosse, and she’s shining on the biggest stage once again. In the last two games, both postseason ones at that, Whittle has a combined 14 goals. It’s no surprise both have been Maryland blowout victories.
2. Megan Taylor was stellar. She racked up the accolades in the past couple weeks, and she showed just why that was the case with her performance on Sunday. In stopping 10 shots and allowing just four goals, Taylor’s save percentage of .714 was elite.
3. The next opponent will be tougher. Navy is one of the hottest teams in the country, and Cindy Timchal spent a large portion of her legendary career at Maryland. That’s not to say that the Terrapins aren’t up to the task, but winning may not come just as easily.
This story has been updated to reflect Navy beating Loyola (MD) to set a matchup with Maryland.