Terps Repeat as Big 10 Tourney Champs Beating NW 14-6

Blog from Todd Carton

Since joining the Big Ten for the 2015 season, the Maryland Terrapins women’s lacrosse team has compiled a record of 20-1. The Terrapins are a perfect 16-0 in the regular season and improved to 5-1 in B1G Tournament play with a 14-6 thrashing of the Northwestern Wildcats in Sunday’s championship game at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park. Given Maryland’s dominance in the conference it seems almost unfair to have had the Terps host the conference tournament on a field where their last loss came on March 10, 2012.

Oddly though, for a team a dominant as Maryland had been, this tournament and title game were, in some ways, a story of personal and team redemption. Also evident this weekend were signs of maturity and the possible emergence of a new star in the Maryland firmament.

One player’s need for personal redemption began a week ago Thursday in Maryland’s 18-9 win over the Wildcats. That night, five time Conference Freshman of the Week, Kali Hartshorn, had perhaps her least productive game of the season. Hartshorn failed to register either a goal or an assist and lost her personal draw control battle to Northwestern’s Shelby Fredericks 10-2.

Hartshorn began her weekend of redemption by scoring four goals with two assists and eight draw controls in Friday’s semifinal against Johns Hopkins. In her Sunday rematch with Fredericks, she added three more goals and an assist while picking up five draw controls and containing Fredericks to five – a number nearly three and a half below her season average. In the process, Maryland became only the second team this season to out draw Northwestern.

The second Terp needing a redemptive performance was Maryland goalie Megan Taylor. Taylor entered the game against Johns Hopkins allowing just 8.9 goals per game and owning a .559 save percentage. The Blue Jays scored 16 times on just 23 shots on goal. Sunday, Taylor responded with a near mirror image of her Friday performance. The sophomore faced 22 shots and saved 16.

Maryland’s defensive unit also needed to bounce back after their Friday showing. The 16 goals Johns Hopkins scored were two more than any team had scored against the Terrapins all season and were a dozen more than Blue Jays registered in the regular season meeting – a 17-4 Maryland win. A lacrosse game is sixty minutes long. In Sunday’s tournament title game, the Terps’ defense, anchored by Taylor’s strong game, held the Wildcats without a score for the first 14:32 of the first half, the first 13:35 of the second half and the final 14:30 of the game. This defensive dominance allowed the Terps to open the game with a 4-0 lead and extend their halftime margin from 6-4 to an all but insurmountable 11-4.

When Megan Whittle scored the third of her five goals in Friday’s semifinal, she became the fastest player in Maryland lacrosse history to score 200 goals. And for her first two seasons, scoring was the junior’s principal modus operandi. In her first two seasons, she had a total of 10 assists. In Sunday’s game, Whittle scored only once but took a mere four shots. She also had two assists to raise her season total to 13. Whittle will continue to be principally a goal scorer but her willingness to distribute the ball will continue to make her team even better.

And the new star lighting up the Terrapin sky would be the Tournament’s Moist Outstanding Player, Caroline Steele. Steele’s ascendance began a week ago Thursday when she scored six times with an assist in the game at Northwestern. The Severna Park sophomore added five goals and an assist in the tournament semifinal and found the net four times Sunday afternoon. Midfielder Zoe Stukenberg and defender Nadine Hadnagy joined Steele, Whittle and Taylor on the All-Tournament team.

Maryland will enter the NCAA Tournament as the number one overall seed and will face the winner of the game between Towson and High Point.

Other Maryland Sports, Todd Carton
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