Terrapin senior midfield Jen Giles (5) sprints with the ball towards net while being defended by Kelley Reilley (3) in Maryland’s 16-5 victory over George Mason at home, Feb 9. (Emily Morina/ The Left Bench)

Offensive balance and stifling defense propel No. 2 Maryland to season opening win over George Mason

Senior attacker Jen Giles, flew past the Patriot defense, drawing a foul and setting up her first free position opportunity with 17:10 remaining in the first half. Giles rifled a shot past Patriot goalie junior Melissa Semkiw, her first of five goals on the day, a career high. Giles six-point day, along with hat tricks from senior midfielder Caroline Steele and junior attacker Kali Hartshorn allowed Maryland to pull away with a 16-5 win.

“I think our offense as a whole did a really good job of moving for each other,” Giles said. “Overall our offense was just working really well together to create space and get each other open.”

Maryland’s offense found cutters early and often and utilized its off-ball movement to counteract the Patriot zone defense. Four of the Terps first six goals were assisted, unselfish play all around.

“We were really focusing on that quick ball movement, that’s how you can penetrate a zone like that,” Giles said.

Playing their first ever home game in Maryland stadium, the Terps showed just how balanced they are with seven different goal scorers and eight different players registering a point. Graduate transfer midfielder Erica Evans fit right in for Maryland, contributing four points. Evans is coming off a torn ACL and its her first regular season action in 18 months.

“It’s obviously what we like to see at this point, I like the way we moved a lot,” head coach Cathy Reese said. [Erica] is really settling in, she did a great job, I thought all of our midfielders did a great job.”

Despite dominating much of the game, George Mason struck first when freshman attacker Deanna Balsama fired a shot past the left shoulder of senior goalie Megan Taylor, giving the Patriots a 1-0 lead. It would be the only lead of the day for George Mason, which struggled with Maryland’s intense defensive pressure. The Patriots turned the ball over 11 times in the first half, only converting on 5 of their 9 clearing opportunities.

Maryland used two seperate 3-0 runs in the first half to help build its five goal halftime lead, with the senior duo of attacker Jen Giles and Caroline Steele compiling first half hat tricks. The Terps speed and off-ball movement gave fits to the Patriot defense, which had 15 first half fouls and struggled to keep up with Maryland’s speed.

In the second half, Maryland’s shut-down defense was the story, allowing one goal and forcing the Patriots into a 25 minute scoring drought. The Terps defense forced the Patriots into five shot-clock violations total, not allowing the Patriot attackers any open space or any open teammates.

However, when the Patriots were able to get shots on net Taylor was prepared. Although not tested often, Taylor finished with five saves, a good start to the season for one of Maryland’s most important players.

“I think I need to save all the ones I should, and then one or two game changing throughout the game,” Taylor said.

Maryland will now travel to Gainesville, Florida taking on the No. 6 Florida Gators on Thursday, a highly anticipated matchup.