The road to a back-to-back national championship just became a bit shorter.
The top-seeded Maryland women’s lacrosse team proved their worth as the No. 1 seed, dominatinating Denver, 15-4, in a second-round matchup to advance to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
“Proud of our team’s effort,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “Denver never stopped fighting… We didn’t respond as well as we would have liked to in the first half, but we definitely made that change in the second half.”
Senior attacker Megan Whittle scored six goals on the day, bringing her to No. 2 on the all-time NCAA goals list, passing Gail Cummings of Temple who had 289 career goals.
“Personally that was a goal of mine when I committed to Maryland when I was 15,” Whittle said. “It’s cool that it’s done, but it’s cooler that we’re moving onto the next round.”
Junior Caroline Steele also had a busy day, scoring four goals, and junior goaltender Megan Taylor anchored the defense with 10 saves to hold Denver to only four goals, a season-low.
“[Taylor] always has our back,” sophomore defender Lizzie Colson said. “On defense, we’re going to make mistakes… All we have to do is do our part, force them wide, and then Megan’s there to make the save.”
Whittle was the first to put one on the board, not even two minutes into the game, taking on the physical Pioneer’s defense straight on, and to double the score junior midfielder Meghan Siverson capitalized on a free position shot in the sixth minute.
The Terps took a 4-0 lead after back-to-back free position goals from Steele and Whittle leading into the first media timeout.
Denver’s freshman attacker Eliza Radochonski was the first Pioneer to put one on the board with eight minutes to go in the first half after senior attacker Caitlin Derry served her a pass on the inside, leaving Radochonski with a one-on-one with Taylor.
The Pioneers zone defense held the Terps scoreless for most of the first half, not scoring a single goal after Whittle’s free position goal with just over 20 minutes to go. Redshirt junior defender Katherine Fischer notched three groundballs and one caused turnover in the first half, and sophomore goaltender Carson Gregg made six saves and held the Terps to 3-for-8 on free position shots.
“As a senior attacker and as a captain, sometimes I need to be the spark,” Whittle said. “But at the same time when we’re playing against a zone like that, we need to move the ball and move for each other. In the first half we just weren’t quite doing that.”
The Terps four goals is tied for the lowest first-half score of the season, since scoring four in the first half against Princeton on April 11.
“We don’t like to have scoring droughts ever of any amount of minutes, but 20 was a long time,” Reese said. “We were getting some looks but I think we were just clogging space too much.”
Whittle made sure to break that scoring drought as the second half opened up, scoring two goals in the first five minutes of the second half to give the Terps a 6-2 lead.
“We reset in the second half,” Whittle said. “We possessed the ball a lot more, we were getting turnovers on defense… and all in all I think our offense just stepped up to the plate.”
After a shot-clock dispute in which the shot clock was mistakenly reset for Denver’s offense, the Pioneers were granted a FPS opportunity that sophomore midfielder Laura Milleker buried to bring Denver within two, down 4-6.
But Giles, who had been relatively quiet in the first half, put a halt to the Denver momentum with her first and second scores of the day, the first off a free position goal and the second off an assist from Whittle.
Long forgotten was the Terps’ 20-minute scoring drought. Steele followed up Giles’ two goals with two of her own, capping off a hat trick with a goal assisted by sophomore Brindi Griffin, yet Giles wasn’t done yet.
After Milleker was sent to the bench with two yellow cards, Giles capitalized on a missed free position shot by freshman Catie May to earn a hat trick as well before Siverson got her second of the day at the eight-meter arc and gave the Terps a 12-4 lead.
Whittle earned her fifth goal after picking up a groundball and spinning on a Pioneer defender, and only 27 seconds later Steele scored her fourth goal, third of the half.
To cap off Maryland’s nine-goal run in the second half, Whittle scored her sixth and final goal of the game with just under seven minutes to go, and the Pioneers could not stage a comeback in the remaining minutes.
As time ran out on the clock, the top-seeded Terps celebrated their 15-4 win to advance to the the third round of the NCAA Tournament, where they will face Navy on Saturday or Sunday.
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