The Maryland women’s lacrosse team knew Northwestern was planning to faceguard attacker Megan Whittle.

As the top-seeded Terps prepared to face the No. 3-seed Wildcats with the Big Ten Tournament title on the line Sunday afternoon, they discussed ways to run the offense that didn’t depend on Whittle being open.

Throughout the season, the Terps have turned to the sophomore to help the offense gain momentum late in games. Whittle has responded by leading the team with 61 goals.

Even though the Terps predicted Northwestern’s strategy, they struggled to find the back of the net in the first half, entering intermission tied for the first time this season. Out of the break, however, coach Cathy Reese’s squad used two scores from Whittle to emerge with a 12-9 victory in Evanston, Illinois.

“We came into the game expecting they were going to faceguard Megan,” midfielder Taylor Cummings said. “We didn’t hit all of our opportunities, but in the second half we did a better job with it.”

Once Northwestern scored the game’s first point, the Terps went on a 4-0 run. None of those goals came from Whittle.

Attacker Caroline Wannen, who Reese said took advantage of her opportunities with Whittle receiving extra attention, scored two in that spurt. The junior recorded a first-half hat trick.

The Terps fell behind three times in the first half. Without their leading goal-scorer’s full contributions, the Terps managed 10 shots in the opening 30 minutes, about eight fewer than their season average.

“We were prepared,” Reese said of the Wildcats’ tactics against Whittle. “We had added some things offensively to get Megan the ball and create some opportunities for her.”

The Terps’ plan worked out of the break, as Whittle scored twice in the period.

Whittle started and capped the Terps’ 5-0 run midway through the period that gave the team a lead it didn’t relinquish.

At the 20:57 mark, the Glenwood native deposited the ball into the lower-right corner of the net as she fell to the ground. About 14 minutes later, Whittle separated from her defender and drove to the goal again.

“We just watched Megan do her thing,” defender Nadine Hadnagy said. “When Megan’s in, she’s in. When she’s not, [the offense] played six-on-six and were able to score.”

Sunday wasn’t the first time an opposing defense has attempted to eliminate Whittle from Maryland’s offensive game plan. Early in the season, Florida and Syracuse sent double- and triple-teams to counter her.

When the Terps faced the Wildcats in College Park on March 31, it took Whittle 54 seconds to score the first of her four goals. While that wasn’t the case on Sunday, the Terps know the offense can produce without her as the team prepares to begin the NCAA tournament this weekend.

“Any time they faceguard someone, it gives the rest of us more space to operate,” Cummings said. “We just wanted to utilize that while also trying to somehow get her the ball if we could. Sometimes we were able to operate six-on-six, and it worked pretty well.”