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Maryland women’s lacrosse handled by Northwestern, 16-11, in Big Ten title game

The No. 1 Terps suffer their first loss of the season, and it could prove costly.

NCAA Lacrosse: Women’s Lacrosse Championship-Maryland vs Boston College Chris Bergmann-USA TODAY Sports

BALTIMORE — No. 1 Maryland women’s lacrosse came up short Sunday afternoon against No. 5 Northwestern, 16-11, suffering its first loss of the season in the Big Ten championship game at Homewood Field.

The Wildcats were propelled by a 10-4 halftime lead, and withstood the Terrapins’ attempts at a comeback in the second half. Maryland had overcome every challenge it faced this season, but Northwestern ultimately snapped the Terrapins’ streak of three consecutive conference tournament titles.

Northwestern led 38-32 in shots and 19-10 in draw controls (12-3 in the first half), which made the difference. Selena Lasota and Izzy Scane came through with four goals each, while Lindsey McKone tallied a hat trick of goals and assists for the Wildcats. In goal, Mallory Weisse put up 10 saves at 47.6 percent, while Megan Taylor stopped just eight shots at 34.8 percent.

Erica Evans, Brindi Griffin, Hannah Warther, Caroline Steele and Kali Hartshorn put in two goals each, but no single Maryland player was able to take a commanding presence on offense.

From the start, Northwestern used a domination on the draw to take control of the game. The Wildcats started with a 4-1 run, including the first two goals of the game from Scane. But the Terrapins would respond with a 3-1 run of their own, including a great play by Erica Evans taking a ball in stride down the middle of the field and finding Brindi Griffin in front of the net for a big score. After this run, Maryland stood within on goal, trialing 5-4, but seemed to have a chance at gaining momentum.

After a timeout, Northwestern would then rattle off five unanswered goals to end the half with a 10-4 lead. The Wildcats outshot Maryland 22-16 in the first half, but the main discrepancy came at the draw, where Northwestern led 12-3 going into the break. The six-goal halftime deficit was Maryland’s largest since March 14, 2007, when the Terrapins were down seven goals at half against Virginia.

The second half was back-and-forth, with both teams scoring five goals in the first 20 minutes. The Terrapins then put in two goals as the clock was winding down, and pulled Megan Taylor to try and keep momentum. The Wildcats would then take possession, run out some clock and scored an empty-net try to claim the victory.

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Three things to know

1. The Terps simply struggled to finish at the net consistently. An up-and-down performance on offense with shot clock struggles and other turnovers simply made it hard for Maryland to get momentum. Jen Giles was held scoreless for the second straight game, and nobody stepped up to take command of the offense.

“I mean, they’re a great defense,” senior attack Brindi Griffin said. “[The Wildcats are] super aggressive. In goal, Mallory [Weisse] was great, she’s an awesome goalie. But I think we learned a lot from this loss. ... They just capitalized on a lot of our mistakes on the attacking side, but I think we’re excited to keep going because from this we know things we can work on.”

2. Maryland’s defense couldn’t get stops when needed. Once the Terrapins did find success on offense, runs were tough to maintain due to defensive lapses. The Wildcats were able to dominate possession, but also finished at a rate of 42.1 percent.

“[Northwestern]’s a really quick team, so they’re hard to keep up with,” junior defender Lizzie Colson said. “And I think we had a few lapses that they just capitalized on. ... They’re a good team, they’re quick and they’re just very hard to defend.”

3. The No. 1 seed is still up in the air. Maryland has held the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament every year since 2013, but this one may be a toss-up. Boston College also suffered its first loss of the season during the ACC championship game against No. 3 North Carolina. The selection committee will be looking at these two programs under a microscope to find the deserving edge, and it will be close.

Wherever the Terps end up, head coach Cathy Reese is optimistic they can take advantage of a full week to prepare and come into next weekend ready to play on the big stage.

“It’s a totally new thing,” Reese added. “You get to the NCAA Tournament and this is the exciting part of the year. It should be fun. It shouldn’t feel like they’re wearing the weight of the world. This should be the time that we work for all season. We’ll have the chance to kind of get after it for a week and when we see sort of our draw, and frankly, that doesn’t matter. What matters is us. What matters is how we can respond from this and what we can do be better in tune with each other.”