BALTIMORE — No. 1-ranked Maryland women’s lacrosse continued its undefeated run by defeating No. 25 Penn State 15-8 in the Big Ten Tournament semifinal Friday evening at Homewood Field.
The Terrapins battled in the first half for a 10-5 halftime lead, and then coasted to victory thanks to stifling defense in the second half. Maryland outshot Penn State 43-39 and had a 13-12 edge at the draw to counter its 40 fouls in this one.
Erica Evans led all scorers with five goals, while Grace Griffin added a hat trick for herself. Megan Taylor finished with 14 saves at a rate of 66.7 percent, while Taylor Suplee had 18 saves, but stopped just 54.5 percent of Maryland’s chances. Senior Jen Giles was held scoreless for the first time in 364 days, dating back to last season’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal against Johns Hopkins.
The Nittany Lions got on the board first thanks to Maria Auth, but the Terrapins jumped out to a 6-2 lead, with each of the first six scored by either Evans or Hartshorn. After Penn State scored once more to make it a 6-3 game, Grace Griffin added her first goal of the game to answer right back.
On the ensuing draw, defender Lizzie Colson used a quick move on the edge of the circle to snag the ball off a bounce and turned upfield. She cut straight down the middle of the Nittany Lion defense and sank a shot into the bottom right-hand corner for her second career goal. Head coach Cathy Reese simply turned to the bench, which was going ballistic, and exclaimed, “Oh my god.”
Both teams would then trade two goals each to end the half 10-5 in favor of Maryland. The Terrapins held a 21-19 lead in shots as well as an 8-3 advantage in turnovers. Maryland actually out-fouled Penn State 20-11 and went an even 8-8 at the draw, which should have shown a much different scoreline.
The second half was all Maryland, as the Terrapins emptied out the bench a bit and used a 5-3 advantage in the second frame to coast to victory.
Maryland will face either No. 2-seed Northwestern or No. 3-seed Michigan in the conference title game Sunday at noon ET.
Three things to know
1. Erica Evans continues to light up opposing defenses. The graduate senior led all scorers with five goals, all of which were in the first half, to help the Terrapins rush out of the gate. She has now scored 19 goals in her last four games and has been the spark Maryland has needed to dominate as of late.
“I think I’m just starting to get comfortable,” Evans said. “Everybody’s so supportive around me and they know what I can do and they’ve been helping me a lot throughout the last few games, so I think it’s for everybody feeding, cutting through for me and things like that. I just think I’m getting a lot more confident and comfortable with the team.”
2. Megan Taylor is back. The All-Big Ten senior came up with 14 saves, including a few huge ones in the first half, to make her mark against Penn State. Taylor had a streak of six Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week awards in a row, but her domination had slowed down as of late. As seen against the Nittany Lions, she’s back to her usual form.
“I think maybe as a defensive whole we kind of, maybe not gotten complacent, but maybe got a little too comfortable,” Colson said. “Now we’re realizing that every game could be our last, and we’re playing a little more intense, helping Megan be able to make those great saves she was making earlier this season. ... I think we’re just kind of ready to go now, and Megan always has that intense, competitive edge to her, and I think it really comes out during this time of the year.”
3. Sunday’s game will have a lot on the line. With Boston College right on their heels, the Terrapins will have to win the Big Ten championship in order to control their own destiny for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Either Northwestern and Michigan will be a tough task, but Maryland has already taken down both teams this season.
“I think it’s more season-long,” head coach Cathy Reese said about the preparation that goes into a conference championship matchup. “When you get to conference play, for us it’s on the back end of our season, and so we didn’t play Northwestern too long ago. We played Michigan a week or whatever it was before that, so all of this stuff is kind of on the back end of our season. ... These conference games are so hard-fought, they’re so competitive. All the teams here, they’re so talented, and we’ll have to make sure that we’re prepared—with, obviously, a quick turnaround—and ready to play on Sunday.”