With just under 16 minutes remaining in the first half of Maryland women’s lacrosse’s midweek matchup with Penn, attacker Caroline Steele took matters into her own hands.

After being fouled while driving toward the cage, the senior lined up a free position shot. As the defense closed in, Steele deftly wound up and fired sidearm past a helpless Mikaila Cheeseman for a 5-2 lead.

It was the second strike of a personal four-goal run in the opening half for Steele in a dominant virtuoso performance against a stingy Penn defense.

Although No. 2 Maryland struggled in the early stages, the squad never trailed after the opening 10 minutes and used a eight-goal first-half run to pull away from No. 6 Penn for a 14-9 win.

“A huge win for our program,” coach Cathy Reese said. “To go 7-0 against another top-10 team in four days is pretty remarkable.”

Despite a few nervous moments and two sizable Penn runs, Maryland’s first half explosion was enough to hold off the Quakers (6-1). The Terps (7-0) shot a red-hot 61 percent to overcome a Penn defense that hadn’t allowed more than 10 goals in their previous six contests.

Things didn’t start as planned for the Terps, though. After turning the ball over on its first possession, Maryland failed to keep up with the cuts and screens of the Quaker offense. Penn hit quickly, with attacker Laura Crawford getting an extra step on the Maryland defense and firing into the bottom corner to open the scoring.

Maryland struggled on offense in the early goings and took nearly nine minutes to register a shot.

“We were on defense for a lot of the game,” Reese said. “Unfortunately, that leads to less shots.”

However, when the Terps did get a shot off, they made it count. With 21 minutes remaining in the half, attacker Kali Hartshorn rifled a free position shot into the top shelf to tie the game. Penn immediately answered, with attacker Gabby Rosenzweig going behind the net and firing past goalkeeper Megan Taylor.

The Terps also faced multiple mental lapses in the opening 12 minutes, turning the ball over four times and fouling the Quakers six times.

However, a drive and score against tight defense from attacker Catie May with 18 minutes remaining ignited the Terps offense. After Steele’s first-half outburst that made the score 7-2, further goals from midfielder Erica Evans and midfielder Jen Giles pushed the score to 9-2 while the Quakers endured a ten minute scoring drought.

“It’s just people around me that look for me,” Steele said. “It’s nice that they went in today.”

Penn responded with two goals in under a minute, catching the Maryland defense sleeping on back-to-back possessions.

Taylor continued the excellence that earned her the IWLCA National Defensive Player of the Week honor, producing an array of saves to keep the lead intact. She went into the break with nine stops, helping secure a 9-4 lead.

“Megan Taylor was phenomenal,” Reese said. “She was seeing the ball well and had a ton of saves.”

The Terps started the second half in electric fashion. After weathering a Penn attack thanks to a reaction save from Taylor, midfielder Grace Griffin squeezed past two defenders on a free position and scored past Cheeseman.

While Penn came out in a more aggressive fashion in the second frame, the Terps were unwavering in their hustle. The early goal coupled with tight defense that forced Penn into bad shots gave the Terps a cushion for the rest of the period.

“I get a front row seat to watch the best defenders in the country play in front of me,” Taylor said. “They make my job so easy.”

Steele scored her fifth of the day with 23 minutes remaining, however, Penn responded with two goals from midfielder Erin Barry that brought the away team within five with 18:30 remaining.

“(Runs) are something we want to be able to limit,” Reese said. “We don’t like it when that happens.”

After a timeout with 17 minutes remaining, the Terps locked in. They forced Barry into a bad look and recovered the ball. On the other end, Maryland worked the ball around the perimeter before Evans drew a foul. Off the ensuing free position attempt, Evans found attacker Brindi Griffin, who stick-faked twice before finishing calmly past backup goalkeeper Krissy Kowalski for a 14-8 lead.

The six-goal edge proved to be enough for the Terps as they calmly saw out the rest of the game. While neither team consistently generated clear looks during a tepid last 15 minutes, Maryland avoided any major scares and comfortably closed out the contest, 14-9.

“To come away with a victory … against another great team is something these guys have to be proud of,” Reese said.