Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

No. 1 seed Maryland faces off against No. 4 seed Penn State in Big Ten Tournament first round

After an undefeated regular season, No. 1 Maryland (17-0, 6-0 B1G) will take on the No. 4 seed Penn State Nittany Lions (8-8, 5-4 B1G) at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Friday. All eight of the Nittany Lions losses have come against ranked opponents.

The Terps defeated Penn State 17-6 in State College earlier this season. After conceding the first two goals to the Nittany Lions, the Terps outscored them 17-4 the final 54:50 of the game. Maryland was leading 7-4 at the half, but put together one of its most dominant second half performances scoring nine consecutive goals after Penn State scored the first goal of the second half.

Sophomore midfielder Grace Griffin led the way in that game scoring four goals, her second highest total of the season. While Griffin scored four goals, both Caroline Steele and Kali Hartshorn scored hat-tricks, once again displaying the balance of Maryland’s offense.

As the Maryland offense was firing on all cylinders for much of the game, the Terps defense was strong as well. Maryland’s defensive unit held the Nittany Lions to 18 shots, the lowest of any conference opponent all season. Each of the Maryland defenders and midfielders were winning their individual matchups, making it difficult for the Nittany Lions attackers to find space to generate good shots on Megan Taylor.

In Maryland’s most recent 19-12 victory over Johns Hopkins, midfielder Erica Evans stole the show scoring a season-high six goals and registering a season-high seven points. Each of the past three games, Evans has scored four or more goals, which she attributes to her confidence rising.

Not only was Evans attacking with confidence and consistency, but she was also efficient scoring on all six of her shot opportunities.

Providing a great complement to Evans, the Terps offensive leader midfielder Jen Giles has registered five or more points in four of the last five games. Both Giles and Evans are playing some of their best lacrosse of the season, continuing to display the leadership that has been evident all season.

“We have so many threats on offense, it’s hard to stop just one of us,” Evans said. “We’re such a talented group this year from Meg T in goal, to defense, to offense everywhere is so strong.”

Veteran leadership has been a key for the Terps throughout this season and will only continue to grow with each game and its increased magnitude. While Maryland has a veteran laiden roster, the Nittany Lions roster is less experienced with several freshman and sophomores in the starting lineup.

“Jen and our senior class has done such a great job leading the way for everybody,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “Look at this senior class, they have lost one game in overtime in four years that’s insane.”

Penn State’s leading scorer is sophomore Quinn Nicolai, who the Terps did a good job of limiting in the first meeting. While Maryland did an admirable job defensively against the Nittany Lions in the first meeting, both teams have changed and grown since then.

Maryland will need to continue playing sound fundamental defense, communicating with each other on slides and cutters. Communication has not been an issue all season long for Maryland and the Terps will look to put together a similar defensive performance like in the first meeting.

The Terps will look to secure a spot in their fourth consecutive Big Ten Tournament final, with first draw scheduled for 5 p.m.