Before midfielder Jen Giles fired home the Maryland women’s lacrosse team’s first goal of the second half just two minutes into play — adding onto an already hefty Terps lead over George Mason — it took four passes and 18 seconds for Maryland to go coast-to-coast.
And just 13 seconds later, midfielder Grace Griffin streaked down the field after the Terps controlled the faceoff, fired a left-handed shot and found the back of the net, continuing an offensive onslaught.
After significant offseason adjustments to Maryland’s attack, coach Cathy Reese described a high-paced offense stringent on her team’s talented midfielders. The two-goal sequence shortly after intermission showcased just that, spurring the Terps to a season-opening 16-5 win Saturday at Maryland Stadium.
“Our offense as a whole did a really great job of moving for each other,” Giles said. “We were working really well together to create that space and get each other open.”
Giles put away a career-high five goals, with four coming off free shot opportunities. She was one of three Terps to complete a hat-trick.
Reese had talked extensively about pushing the pace in the run up to the opener. Speedy midfielders Griffin and graduate transfer Erica Evans provided assists in the first half while constantly pressuring their counterparts. Attacker Caroline Steele and Giles were the primary beneficiaries. Both completed first half hat-tricks as the Terps built a 9-4 advantage at the break.
George Mason also utilized a zone defense to attempt to slow down Maryland’s counters and cut out passing lanes. Giles and Co. still managed to make an impact, though.
“We prepared by practicing against a zone,” Giles said, “so we were really focusing on quick ball movement.”
Last time the two teams met, Maryland won 21-2. Despite not reaching the same margin of victory this time around, the Terps were very much in control. Maryland drew 15 fouls in the first half alone and converted 50 percent of their free shots.
While Maryland put together a convincing win, it was George Mason who scored first. Freshman attacker Deanna Balsama fired a shot past goalkeeper Megan Taylor unassisted under tight pressure under two minutes into the contest.
The Terps were quick to respond, though. Seven minutes in, Reese’s offensive philosophy showed. A rapid counter attack spearheaded by Griffin allowed Maryland to capitalize on an unorganized defense. The sophomore found a cutting Steele, who finished and established a 2-1 lead. The Terps never looked back.
Evans, who missed last season due to a torn ACL, got involved on offense in her first game in almost 18 months. She scored twice and assisted two others in her Maryland debut. Reese praised her performance, but highlighted that many Maryland players contributed
“She’s really settling in. You’re coming in and this is your first game in a Maryland uniform,” Reese said. “She has experience, but in the same way we threw some of our freshmen into the mix today, too.”
The defense, a preseason strongsuit for the Terps, was as secure as promised. Maryland forced 11 turnovers in the first half alone and mounted 18 total.
“Defensively, I thought we did a nice job limiting their possessions,” Reese said. “They held onto the ball pretty often so we had more shot clock violations than we typically have.”
George Mason turned the ball over five times due to shot clock violations. Tight Maryland defense left the Patriots with very few clear shots.
Taylor started her final season strong in goal. After conceding four goals in the first half, the captain helped hold George Mason to a 25-minute scoring drought. She had five saves, and only allowed one goal in the second half.
“No matter whether they shoot the ball once, every 10 minutes, or once a game, my job is to save the ball,” Taylor said.
While Maryland dominated the scoreline, there were areas where George Mason competed. The Terps has 13 draw controls to the Patriots 10. Two goalkeepers for the Patriots also combined for 13 saves.
“They did a really nice job challenging us on the draw,” Reese said. “They were very tough and very physical in the center circle.”
In total, seven Terps scored en route to a convincing victory that showcased Maryland’s offensive potential. And with a visit to face Florida on Thursday, the Terps will look to carry over their quick-fire success.
“Happy with our team and the way we played,” Reese said. “There were some good things from today, and some things we need to work on.”