For the first half of Maryland women’s lacrosse’s Thursday night matchup against Florida, it seemed the Gators had a response for each Terps goal.
After Maryland stormed out to a 5-0 lead, Florida clawed back four goals of its own. The two teams exchanged looks for the remaining 13 minutes, and the Terps went into the break with a 7-5 lead.
The second half was a different story.
It took Maryland just under two minutes to get back on the board, and then the floodgates opened. A combination of highlight-reel plays and possession-based offense contributed to a goalscoring explosion for the Terps.
And for the second game in a row, a strong second half carried the Terps to victory, with midfielder Jen Giles delivering another big performance. While she provided most of her damage off free position shots in the home opener, Giles also impressed from open play.
“She’s somebody we lean on a lot this season,” coach Cathy Reese said. “She’s not only a great player but a great leader as well.”
With just under 24 minutes left to play, Giles offered one of the key plays of the game. She drove toward goal and deftly spun around her opposition on the edge of the arc. The defender fell, and Giles sniped a shot past a helpless goalkeeper, sending her teammates into raptures.
Despite the standout solo effort, Giles stressed a team-first mindset.
“‘A goal is a goal,’ is something we always say. No matter what,” Giles said. “It’s a great feeling for the whole team.”
Giles wasn’t the only Terp to come up with big plays in the second half. Attacker Caroline Steele, similar to Giles against George Mason, was a menace off free position shots.
She converted 3-of-3 opportunities on the day, including one to cap off a run of six goals in under six minutes for the Terps that separated the sides with 20 minutes remaining.
“Steele had some amazing 8-meters that were some of the greatest shots I’ve seen in lacrosse,” Giles said.
Five Terps scored in the second half, embodying Reese’s philosophy of sharing the ball and “playing to our strengths.” Through two games, Maryland has spread the wealth — at least six different players have scored in both games.
While Giles, Steele and attacker Kali Hartshorn each notched four goals in Thursday’s win, the Terps’ second-half push was possible through their defensive stability. After conceding the second half’s first goal that brought the Gators within one, Maryland held Florida to a near 10-minute dry spell. During that time, the Terps nabbed six goals of their own.
The defense showed up in a variety of ways. Midfielder Grace Griffin caused a turnover and claimed three ground balls and defender Julia Braig locked down Maryland native Grace Haus, who had two first-half goals, during that important stretch.
“I can’t praise [the defense] enough,” goalkeeper Megan Taylor said. “I’ve been saying since day one, I really believe I play with All-Americans in front of me.”
Taylor was crucial during the run, notching 12 saves, with eight coming in the second half to quell any fears that Florida would sneak back into the game again.
“I wanted them to shoot,” Taylor said. “I was excited to compete at that level.”
In an evening of strong performances, Reese had one of her own. The 17-12 victory was her 250th for the Terps, pushing her to a 250-21 record in her coaching career at Maryland.
And with a clinical second-half in front of goal, the Terps cruised past the first of two top-5 foes in consecutive matches.
“It’s nice to be able to celebrate something like that with my 2019 team,” Reese said.