When the Maryland women’s lacrosse team played North Carolina in the national championship last May, midfielder Jen Giles earned time as a reserve but didn’t record a point. The Terps lost, 13-7.
Giles, however, made her presence known in the regular-season rematch.
The sophomore scored three goals and added three assists for six points, leading the No. 2 Terps to a 13-10 victory over the No. 1 Tar Heels on Saturday afternoon at Maryland Stadium.
“For our program to come in and have a win against such a talented program, it’s what we need right now,” coach Cathy Reese said. “We need to continue to build our confidence and continue to find ways that we can get better.”
The Terps opened a 3-0 lead about three minutes into the game. After the Tar Heels cut the deficit to two, Giles made it 4-1 less than eight minutes into the game. The sophomore was Maryland’s top offensive performer, finding holes in North Carolina’s defense when the Tar Heels used extra coverage to guard her teammates.
“They were sending the double early, so that opened up one of our players,” Giles said. “I was just trying to keep my eyes open and handle whatever they threw at me.”
After her score rebuilt the Terps’ three-goal lead, North Carolina never managed to pull closer.
Maryland’s defense forced 16 North Carolina turnovers and fielded 17 ground balls to the Tar Heels’ 10.
“They did a nice job defensively,” Reese said. “We had good body position, played good one-on-one defense, and then came up with the ball when we could cause a turnover.”
Senior Nadine Hadnagy and sophomore Julia Braig caused two turnovers apiece while Hadnagy picked up two ground balls and Braig scooped three. Senior midfielder Zoe Stukenberg highlighted the backline’s contributions to help the midfielders push the ball in transition.
“Juila and Nadine, I swear, were just knocking down passes left and right, getting ground balls,” Stukenberg said. “It’s amazing. As middies, it’s like, we did what we needed to do, we put the work in, put the effort in, it paid off. Now we have the ball, we can take care of it.
“Every stop kind of takes the wind out of their sails and just puts in in ours.”
Giles spearheaded the Terps attack and was one of six players to find the back of the net. Stukenberg also had a hat trick, while midfielder Kali Hartshorn and attackers Caroline Wannen and Megan Whittle each chipped in two goals. Whittle’s first was the 150th of her career.
Taylor Hensh added a goal and an assist, while Wannen also tacked on a feed.
The Terps received another strong performance from sophomore goalkeeper Megan Taylor, as she made nine saves, with several coming on close-range shots.
“I saw a lot of confidence out of a lot of different players, defenders, our goalie,” Stukenberg said. “Everyone was just kind of in-sync.”
Reese praised the leadership of the captains Stukenberg and Hadnagy, as well as Giles after her performance. The coach was pleased with the trio’s hustle and energy to lead the victory.
“I’m really proud of this group,” Reese said. They’ve got a lot of fight in them, a lot of heart in them.”