By Luke Gentile
The No. 3 Maryland women’s lacrosse team (16-1, 6-0 Big Ten) held off a determined No. 7 Northwestern University (13-4, 5-1 Big Ten) in a 20-16 win April 26 as the Terrapins secured their fourth consecutive regular season title.
In a tale of two halfs, the Terps came out firing on all cylinders in the opening minutes of the game. Senior team captain Megan Whittle moved off her defender and placed a shot in the top right corner to put the Terps on the board in the first 90 seconds, and within 10 minutes the Terrapins had a commanding four goal lead.
“This is where we want to be at this point in the season,” said Maryland head coach Cathy Reese. “We are shooting well, moving the goalie, clearing space for each other and looking for opportunities to create good offensive chances.”
Maryland netted 14 goals in the first half alone, and an aggressive offense deserves much of the credit.
The Terrapins generated great success, first spreading out the Wildcat defense with short passes before attacking the net early and often with great individual runs. Junior midfielder Meghan Siverson registered her first hat trick in a Terrapin uniform and showed moments of individual brilliance including two first-half goals.
“My teammates were such a big part of this,” Siverson said, referring to her three goal performance. “Moving the ball well and finding the open player, playing together, helped us open opportunities for everyone.”
Another factor that ran up Maryland’s score in the first half was Northwestern’s inability to stay out of foul trouble. The Wildcats took 15 fouls alone in the opening 30 minutes, and the Terps capitalized, going 4-6 on free-position shots.
Maryland went into the locker room up 14-7 at halftime, but this lead wouldn’t stay long.
The Northwestern team that came back on the field in the second half made it look like a completely different game. A goalie substitution put a halt to the Maryland attack as Northwestern’s Mallory Weisse shut down Terps offense with 12 saves. The Wildcats, now with a strong backfield, went on the offensive scoring three straight goals, and coach Reese was forced to call a timeout.
“They changed their goalies, and that threw a different look at us. We hit a bunch of pipes there, it felt like there were three in a row, but then we got a couple of goals that stopped their momentum,” she said.
Instead of playing it safe and trying to defend their shrinking lead, the Terrapins pushed forward and laid down a barrage of 17 more shots on the new Wildcat goaltender.
“It’s all about composure,” said Whittle. “For me, as a senior captain, I have to stay cool, calm and collected because everyone feeds off my energy. So, when they go on a two goal run, you have to say this is our draw. This is it, we have to get the next possession and focus on the next play. You have to realize that you’ve been here before.”
Whittle finished the game with four goals off 12 shots, and a late goal by junior midfielder Jen Giles put the Wildcats to sleep.
When the clock finally ran out, the Terps rushed the field to celebrate their regular season championship, getting decked out with championship hats and shirts.
“We’re playing for the T-shirt and hat,” Whittle said, laughing. “It’s the best part of the season, because we are playing for something every game. Sometimes it’s hard to get excited for a weekday Wednesday away game, but now we got the Big Ten Tournament and today we were playing for the regular season championship. That’s what we do as Terps, we want to win big games.”
Maryland will head to the University of Michigan on Friday to start the Big Ten Tournament and continue its quest to repeat as national champions.