In the beginning of the second half of the Maryland women’s lacrosse team’s matchup against Penn State on Thursday, midfielder Grace Griffin received a yellow card. A player down for two minutes, the Terps needed a stop to prevent the Nittany Lions from cutting into their 5-3 lead.
Goalkeeper Megan Taylor came through, saving Penn State’s ensuing free position shot. Then, attacker Megan Whittle took things into her own hands.
After the Terps cleared the ball, Whittle gained possession, evaluated the Penn State defense and sprinted toward the left side of the net. She used a spin move to escape two defenders on the right side, moved back toward the left and fired a behind-the-back shot that landed between the pipes. Still outnumbered on the field, Maryland saw its lead increase to three, its largest of the game.
When coach Cathy Reese’s team required a spark against the then-No. 15 Nittany Lions, Whittle found ways to help the No. 3 Terps maintain momentum en route to a 13-8 victory. Her five-goal performance pushed her career total to 275, the third-most in NCAA history.
“We all know, she goes hard and she’s such a fierce competitor and has so much fire,” Reese said. “We were man down … and we set up something and looked for her to attack and she found her way through and was able to score at a time when we needed it.”
Against Penn State, Whittle orchestrated Maryland’s attack. The Terps went about 16 minutes without a goal toward the end of the first half, allowing the Nittany Lions to narrow their deficit to 4-3. But with less than 30 seconds remaining before the intermission, Whittle fired off a shot with three Nittany Lions defenders in her path, padding Maryland’s lead.
Whittle’s success continued in the second. When Penn State’s four unanswered goals trimmed Maryland’s advantage to 11-8, she responded with an unassisted score with less than four minutes to go, effectively icing the game for the Terps.
Whittle ended the game with two draw controls and a caused turnover to complement her five goals. Her effectiveness added to her record-breaking senior season.
In Maryland’s previous game — a 20-5 win over Ohio State — Whittle surpassed Jen Adam’s 267 goals to become the program’s all-time leading scorer. Against the Nittany Lions, she passed Marsha Florio, who posted 271 goals at Penn State, for third place on the all-time scoring list.
By this point in Whittle’s career, her teammates are used to her success, which is why they turned to her down a player on Thursday.
“You can always rely on her whenever you need a big goal or a change in momentum,” Griffin said. “She’s just amazing — she’s a true leader, she leads by example and she’s a big component to our team.”