After attacker Selena Lasota fired a shot through Maryland women’s lacrosse’s defense to give Northwestern a 1-0 lead on Thursday, the squad came together in an animated huddle. And in a one-minute span shortly after, two Wildcat tallies formed a three-goal edge — unfamiliar territory for the undefeated Terps.
Maryland looked around in bewilderment, and coach Cathy Reese — usually unfazed — scowled. Facing its largest deficit of the season just over six minutes into the game, the Terps appeared deflated.
The high-powered Northwestern attack continued the aggression for the remainder of the half. But after their meager opening, the Terps found a rhythm of their own. Maryland pulled out a 17-13 win after a thunderstorm briefly delayed proceedings and moved the matchup indoors.
For a team that’s found the bulk of its success this season through a stout defense and timely offense, Thursday’s win showed a different route to victory. The Terps won a shootout against Northwestern — the highest-scoring team in the country — showing an ability it hasn’t had to rely upon in most games.
“Every team we face is talented,” Reese said. “Here we are coming down the wire … and we need to be getting better.”
[Read more: 3 takeaways from Maryland women’s lacrosse’s weather-delayed win over Northwestern]
After conceding 6.4 goals per game before their trip to Evanston, Illinois — good for second in the nation — the Terps allowed a season-high 13 goals against the Wildcats. While Maryland couldn’t subdue the potent Northwestern attack, it adjusted in the second half after an inefficient first 30 minutes.
After shooting 35 percent in the first half, the Terps relied on individual plays to overpower the Wildcats, instead of ball movement and team-oriented play as they have frequently. Only two of Maryland’s 17 goals were assisted.
“We weren’t shooting our best,” midfielder Jen Giles said. “As the game went on, we got a lot better with that.”
Attacker Caroline Steele and midfielder Erica Evans combined for nine goals on an uncharacteristically inefficient shooting night. The two shot 43 percent combined, often forcing shots without a clear look on goal.
Still, the Terps found a way to win, with a second-half surge from Evans and Steele helping to first overcome the deficit and then push the game out of reach.
“They faceguarded Jen Giles, so to see those guys and Caroline Steele really step up in a game of that magnitude is awesome,” Reese said.
[Read more: On Maryland lacrosse’s talented defense, Shelby Mercer isn’t being overlooked]
Against Georgetown on Wednesday, the Terps will face a different look than they saw in Evanston. While the Wildcats boasted an impressive offense, the Hoyas’ defense is their calling card, ranking No. 24 in the country.
Maryland may draw on its success from the final 12 minutes against Northwestern, when a lightning delay sparked a 5-1 run with better ball movement than before.
“We can shoot on any goalie,” midfielder Grace Griffin said. “We just need to have confidence in ourselves.”
With two games remaining in the regular season, Maryland hopes to finish strong despite already wrapping up at least a share of the Big Ten title. Georgetown — just 8-6 this year — isn’t a team to overlook. Midfielder Francesca Whitehurst ranks sixth in the Big East in points, and the Hoyas have posted 20-goal games twice this season.
But Thursday’s hard-fought win over its toughest Big Ten competition may prepare Maryland for the stretch run toward the postseason.
“We don’t want this to be the point where we kind of plateau and drop off,” Reese said.