Junior defender Julia Braig was named the Big Ten Defender of the Year and was key to the Terps' defense that held their opponents to an average 9.68 goals per game (Maryland Athletics).

Top-seeded Terps host Denver in the Big Dance

The No. 2 Maryland women’s lacrosse team will begin to defend their national championship on Sunday when they host the Denver Pioneers in a second-round game of the NCAA Tournament.

The Terps (18-1) earned themselves a sixth-consecutive No. 1 seed and a first-round bye after defeating Penn State, 21-12, in the Big Ten Tournament final last Sunday.

Senior Tewaaraton finalist Megan Whittle scored a career-high eight goals to help the Terps cap off a perfect season in the Big Ten and was in turn awarded the tournament MVP award. Sophomore attacker Kali Hartshorn also reached a milestone, tallying a career-high 15 draw controls, as Maryland won their third-consecutive Big Ten Tournament Championship.  

And though the Terps did not have a game in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, this week kept them busy.

The showering of awards and honors started on Monday when five Terps were given Big Ten season honors, including a unanimous Coach of the Year award for head coach Cathy Reese.

Whittle was named Big Ten Attack Player of the Year, junior Julia Braig was named the Defender of the Year, junior Megan Taylor as the Goaltender of the Year and freshman Grace Griffin was awarded the Freshman of the Year honor.

For Reese, this is her third time receiving the award in the four years the Terps have been a part of the Big Ten, and overall the 10th time in her career that she has been named Coach of the Year.

The Terps and Pioneers have only met two times, when Reese was the head coach for Denver from 2004-2006, and Maryland leads the series 2-0.

Whittle and senior attacker Taylor Hensh became the 17th and 18th Terps to be drafted into the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League on Monday night, as the league prepares for its inaugural season this summer. Whittle was selected by the Upstate Pride with the fifth pick in the draft, and Hensh is headed to the New England Command after being chosen with the 17th overall pick.

And the cause for celebration doesn’t end there, as Whittle and Braig were also named to the IWLCA All-South Region team, along with junior midfielder Jen Giles, junior attacker Caroline Steele and sophomore defender Lizzie Colson on Friday.

Hartshorn and Taylor also were selected for the second all-region team.

The road to the Big Dance was not quite the same for Denver (13-6). The Pioneers secured an at-large bid in to the tournament for only the third time in the program’s history, where they would face High Point University in a first-round matchup in College Park.

Denver was unable to earn a tournament championship, falling 18-6 to Florida in the Big East final, but bounced back with a 19-10 win over High Point on Friday.

Junior Maddie Baum earned eight draw controls and made history, breaking the school record for most draw controls in a season.

Two Pioneers were selected for the IWLCA West/Midwest Region Second Team: junior Julia Feiss and redshirt junior Kennedy Milburn. Feiss and Milburn were also named to the All-Big East First Team, and Feiss led the team with 45 goals and 55 points overall.

Milburn has led the Pioneer defense all season, notching a team-high 34 ground balls and 21 caused turnovers.

The game will begin at noon at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex and will be aired on the Big Ten Network at 6 p.m. with Matt Monaco and Sheehan Burch on the call.