Midway through the first half of Wednesday night’s clash between Maryland and Navy, as the two teams descended into huddles for a timeout, Navy coach Cindy Timchal hesitated. Before talking to her players, she turned angrily to an official, offering a few choice words, picking up a yellow card for her troubles. Her caution was one of nine in a testy clash between two ranked opponents Wednesday night.
While Navy tempers often boiled, Maryland’s offense simmered throughout the 60 minutes — providing sufficient production for a 16-7 win, snapping a three-game losing streak.
“We open with three of the top 10 teams in the nation. It’s a little tough,” head coach Reese said. “So, it was nice to get our feet under us a little bit.”
With former coach Timchal and graduated goalie Megan Taylor in town, there was little familial civility as the inter-state rivals met. Yet cool heads prevailed for the Terps in the first half, as the home team rattled off an insurmountable 10-0 run. Despite brief assertive spells from Navy in the second half, Maryland created enough separation early to avoid slipping to a third-consecutive home loss.
In their 10-5 loss to Syracuse last Saturday, Maryland struggled with discipline. The Terps turned the ball over 20 times, throwing errant passes and succumbing to the Orange’s physical defense. Facing a less assertive Navy team, the scenario was far different. The errant passes were few, the one-on-one mishaps nonexistent, and the Terps only turned the ball over three times in a far more efficient first half. They also won the draw control battle, 10-3.
Meanwhile, Navy looked far less disciplined. The Midshipmen posted six turnovers, all of which came on the offensive end. Their frustrations grew throughout the half, and by the end of the period, Navy picked up five yellow cards.
“Our offense came out firing,” defender Meghan Doherty said. “And that really got our defense ready to roll.”
Indeed, an early lead was one of few bright spots for Navy on an otherwise forgettable evening. After Navy struck 30 seconds into the game, Maryland responded assertively on the other end. Midfielder Hannah Warther scored first, corralling a deft handoff from midfielder Grace Griffin before driving to the cage and finishing past Abbi Young. Midfielder Shay Ahearn found the net next, swiveling onto her stronger right hand off a feed from attacker Brindi Griffin.
“We got caught back on our heels the last couple games, and just looked a little bit timid,” Reese said. “So, I wanted to make sure we came out strong.”
The goals piled on from there. Maryland notched its first three goals in 90 seconds. It only needed eight minutes to score four and force Navy into an early timeout. Less than a minute after the stoppage, Maryland was back amongst the goals. Brindi Griffin grabbed one herself, picking up a precise feed from attacker Kali Hartshorn. By Navy’s next timeout — this one with 12:41 remaining in the first half — the Terps led 8-1.
“We attacked hard,” Reese said. “When we can get to that point, any of the seven players on the field are going to be dangerous.”
And they continued to score. Warther, Hartshorn, and attacker Libby May rounded off the half in style, giving the Terps an 11-1 advantage when the horn sounded.
The opening moments of the second period weren’t as smooth. Navy scored early, cashing in on a free position that whistled past the stick of goalie Maddie McSally. Although the Terps responded with a solo strike from Hartshorn, they slowed down significantly in the opening 10 minutes of the period. After four shots and a turnover, accompanied by two yellow cards, Maryland called a timeout to reset.
“Second half we just got a little sloppy,” Reese said. “There was a lot of emotion out there, a lot of just ups and downs.”
It seemed to help, as the Terps appeared more composed on both ends of the field. While they traded scores with the Midshipmen, their lead hovered around eight goals for most of the remainder of the game.
Tempers occasionally flared over the rest of the half. Reese expressed her displeasure after a missed-call that led to a Navy goal, walking well away from the Maryland bench to protest. Timchal was similarly unhappy after a clash in midfield that went the Terps’ way.
“We let them dictate the tempo with all that chaos going on with the cards,” Doherty said. “But then we finally took ourselves and got back to playing Maryland lacrosse.”
Still, Maryland stayed alive long enough. It added two more goals down the stretch to extend the lead to 16-7 with two minutes remaining — sealing a convincing win.
After the game, Reese and Timchal engaged in a long dialogue with the officials, still protesting numerous calls from the evening. It didn’t matter to the Maryland players, though, who went about their stretches. Indeed, after dropping three in a row, the Terps battled back into the win column.
“All over our team really played well together and played for one another,” Doherty said. “It was really awesome to see that finally come together.”