Minutes into Maryland women’s lacrosse’s matchup with UMBC on Wednesday, the Terps faced an unexpected setback. After a foul by defender Shelby Mercer, Retrievers attacker Lauren McDonald was afforded a free position shot for a chance to open the scoring.
At the whistle, McDonald pivoted around Maryland midfielder Jen Giles before shooting toward the upper part of the cage. But goalie Megan Taylor had an answer. She deflected the shot, and Maryland eventually cleared and scored on its next offensive sequence.
The three-time Big Ten Goaltender of the Year’s save set the tone for the rest of the game.
While the Terps’ offense dazzled, the defense was the hero of the team’s 18-1 win, preventing an opponent from scoring multiple goals for the first time since 2003.
“The reason we held them to only one goal is they were doing their jobs,” coach Cathy Reese said.
On the heels of defensive dominance in the last 15 minutes Sunday against North Carolina, it took Maryland just 115 seconds to record its first stop against UMBC. The defense continued to perform at a high standard, allowing one goal in the 16th minute before keeping UMBC from any clear looks the rest of the way.
The first half was the kind of performance Reese had expected from her starters regardless of opponent. And with her offense firing on all cylinders, Reese has constantly emphasized improving on defense; her mantra came to fruition Wednesday night.
“We were shutting down different looks. That was obviously something that went into game prep,” Reese said. “We had one day of preparation for this.”
UMBC managed just six shots in the first half, five of which Taylor saved. In the second half, the Retrievers mustered only one, which sailed well wide of the mark.
Maryland’s successes expanded beyond man-marking and preventing shots, though. The Terps constantly badgered UMBC in transition, where they forced seven of the Retrievers’ 18 turnovers. And they shared the effort, with seven different Terps providing a takeaway.
With 23 minutes remaining in the first period, attacker Kali Hartshorn was all over a long, floated pass from UMBC goalie Carly Tolino. Hartshorn cut off the passing lane, stole the ball and started a fast break opportunity.
Midfielder Grace Griffin and defender Julia Braig provided similar plays later in the first half. The former turned it into a Maryland score, augmenting the Terps’ lead to seven. Midfielder Erica Evans had three of them.
“I always give it back to my teammates,” Evans said. “They’re the ones clearing the lanes.”
With such a one-sided scoreline, Reese allotted as much playing time for reserves as possible. Even with 14 defenders seeing the field, the Terps’ defense stayed solid throughout.
The reserves continued the work of the starters with aplomb, taming the Retrievers en route to the 17-goal blowout. Underclassmen were a large part of the success, with five freshmen taking the field over the 60 minutes of play.
“Everybody was able to get out there and play today,” said attacker Julia Hoffman, who scored her first career hat-trick. “Everybody contributed.”
With all of Maryland’s starters on the bench by the late stages of the second half, the Terps emphatically showcased their talented underclassmen group. When Maryland takes on Hofstra, another unranked opponent, on Saturday, they’ll hope to get their depth players involved once more.
“Tonight, no matter what combination of people we had back there,” Reese said, “we did a great job.”