The Maryland women’s lacrosse team beamed as it passed around shirts, hats and the Big Ten trophy Thursday.
Apparently, winning conference championships never gets old.
By beating No. 7 Northwestern, 20-16, the No. 3 Terps stayed perfect, winning their fourth Big Ten regular season championship in as many tries and finishing a fourth consecutive conference slate undefeated.
Attacker Megan Whittle, called winning her fourth Big Ten title one of “the best feelings ever.”
Maryland came out firing in the de facto championship game against the Wildcats, who also entered the contest undefeated against Big Ten foes. The Terps scored the first four goals of the game and didn’t allow Northwestern a shot until nearly 10 minutes had elapsed.
“I liked everything about it,” coach Cathy Reese said of the start. “That’s where we want to be at this point in the season. It’s all I’ve talked about all year, is getting us on the same page where we’re shooting well, we’re moving the goalie, we’re clearing space for each other, we’re looking for opportunities to create good offensive looks, and we did that.”
Though Maryland (16-1, 6-0 Big Ten) dominated throughout the first half and entered intermission with a 14-7 lead, it struggled to start the second period, allowing the Wildcats back into the game.
Northwestern (13-4, 5-1) gained back some momentum towards the start of the half. After Terps midfielder Brindi Griffin scored to open the half, the Wildcats scored four in a row to cut the lead to 15-11.
The Terps also faced trouble scoring when the Wildcats changed goalies shortly after Griffin’s score. Backup goalkeeper Mallory Weisse saved her first five shots to hold Maryland scoreless for nearly 11 minutes.
“Sometimes you can get ahead of yourself and get all frantic,” midfielder Jen Giles said. “As long as we just get back to our roots, taking care of the little things, ground balls, talking, stuff like that, then we can take a deep breath and move on from there.”
The Terps bench exploded when attacker Megan Whittle scored to break the drought. Attacker Caroline Steele followed that with another goal, and the Terps’ defense locked down to hold the Wildcats without a goal until the 11:51 mark, when a wild comeback would’ve been required for Northwestern to dethrone the Terps, who are 22-0 in regular season Big Ten play since joining the conference.
Five Terps – Whittle, Steele, Giles, attacker Brindi Griffin and midfielder Meghan Siverson – scored three or more goals in the game.
The Wildcats scored the final three goals to make the scoreline respectable after trailing by more than five goals for much of the game.
“It’s so great because it just shows how great our chemistry is as a team,” Siverson said. “We feed off of each other’s good energy, so to have everyone be able to contribute really just shows how well-rounded everyone is in playing together.”