In a series of missed shots and second chances early against then-No. 4 Florida, Maryland women’s lacrosse displayed its attacking work ethic.

Following midfielder Jen Giles’ miss on a free-position attempt, attacker Caroline Steele scooped the grounder. Attacker Brindi Griffin misfired on the ensuing shot, and midfielder Grace Griffin corralled the ball. Another miss, this time by Steele, fell to midfielder Megan Siverson, who fed midfielder Erica Evans to finally score the first goal of 17 on Feb. 14.

That level of tenacity in front of goal was pivotal in the Terps’ five-goal win over the first of two top-5 opponents in consecutive games. So, when No. 3 Maryland faces No. 2 North Carolina on Sunday, coach Cathy Reese believes effort will be the deciding factor.

“Coming off our last game, we did a really good job around the draw circle,” Reese said. “It’s all about hustle.”

[Read more: Despite scoring 33 goals in 2 games, Maryland women’s lacrosse wants to improve efficiency]

Maryland opened the season with an underwhelming 13-10 draw advantage against George Mason, but followed with a more convincing 20-11 edge against Florida. Through two games, Maryland ranks 16th nationally in draw control percentage while North Carolina is second in the nation.

Although the Tar Heels have played one more game and have had a less rigorous opening month, they bring a level of intensity that the Terps must match.

Historically, draw controls have been vital for Maryland. The Terps have ranked among the top five teams in draw controls per game since the 2013-14 season.

[Read more: No. 2 Maryland women’s lacrosse used a dominant second half to dismantle No. 4 Florida]

Attacker Kali Hartshorn was a key factor in Maryland’s victory over Florida, racking up nine draw controls — a performance that earned her Big Ten Player of the Week honors. Against the Tar Heels, Hartshorn may need to deliver another big game.

She did so against North Carolina last year, registering a then-career high 11 draw controls in an overtime loss.

“The draw controls are always so important in whatever game we go in to,” Hartshorn said.

Ground balls, another element of the hustle Reese values, have been an area of inconsistency for the Terps. Maryland finished last in the Big Ten in ground balls last year despite losing just two games. In 2017 — when the Terps won the title — they were second to last in the conference, emphasizing the disparity between stats and wins.

And regardless of position, the Terps have emphasized the importance of ground balls in establishing a rhythm. Goalkeeper Megan Taylor embodied that philosophy by securing five against Florida. Attacker Brindi Griffin scooped four, while the midfield duo of Grace Griffin and Jen Giles collected three apiece.

North Carolina follows a similar philosophy, and has averaged 18.3 draw controls to begin the year compared to Maryland’s 16.5.

Taylor is aware of how hard the Tar Heels will work, but thinks Maryland matches up well. And in the Terps’ second consecutive high-profile matchup, 50-50 challenges may decide the game.

“They’re going to try to go hard,” Taylor said. “They play a really good style for us, and it’s going to be exciting for us to have to compete at that level.”