By Noah Gross
The Maryland Terrapins women’s lacrosse team defeated Northwestern on Sunday afternoon 14-6 in College Park to take home their second consecutive Big Ten Tournament title.
The Terps will enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated and conference champions after defeating Johns Hopkins on Friday to advance to Sunday’s championship. Northwestern ends the season with a 10-9 record.
These two teams met in the final game of the regular season, and both times it was all Maryland. The Terps won the two games by a combined 17 goals.
Caroline Steele continued on a torrid pace. With four more goals today, she now has fifteen in her last three games.
The offense had another solid performance behind Steele, but Megan Taylor was the story in goal for the Terps.
“[Taylor] is one of the best, if not the best out there,” Head Coach Cathy Reese said. “She’s truly our backbone back there, she was on fire today.”
Taylor struggled mightily for most of the semifinal game, letting in 16 goals, but made some big saves late. She carried that late success into Sunday’s game, finishing with an impressive .727 save percentage.
Taylor was great in goal, but she had a lot of help from her defense. Nadine Hadnagy shadowed Northwestern’s leading scorer, Christina Esposito, for most of the game, holding her to just one goal.
“Nadine played Esposito really well today, she is such a great defender,” Cathy Reese said. “She is the core anchor of our defense.”
The final score indicates that the game was a blowout, but much of the championship was not that way. It was just a two-goal game at halftime, with Maryland up 6-4, but the second half was all Terps. Maryland scored five straight goals to start the half to ice the game.
“[The] first half kind of felt a little stagnant, a little messy,” Zoe Stukenberg said. “In the second half we came out with a really good mentality of just moving the ball.”
Megan Whittle did not have her best 30 minutes in the first half, missing multiple open opportunities. She got on the board in the second half though in rather impressive fashion. Whittle blew by the Wildcat defense from nearly midfield all the way to the goal to fire one past Northwestern goalie, Mallory Weisse.
Jen Giles, who missed the semifinal against Johns Hopkins, returned and filled up the stat sheet. She finished with one goal, three assists and some stellar defense.
“Jen is so crucial, I love playing with Jen,” Stukenberg said. “She is just a force of nature everywhere she goes.”
Kali Hartshorn put an exclamation point on the game with 5:45 remaining. She cut from the right of the goal to the left side, caught a pass from Jen Giles and fired across her body with power and precision to give the Terps a seven-goal lead.
The Terps will head into the NCAA Tournament next week playing some of the best lacrosse they have all season. They have played the toughest competition the Big Ten has to offer the past few weeks, and have not blinked.
Maryland will start the tournament in College Park, where they will host a maximum of three games. After that is the semifinals and finals, which will be played in Foxborough, Massachusetts.