For 20 minutes Sunday, the top-ranked Maryland women's lacrosse team seemed stuck in neutral against No. 16 Johns Hopkins. Facing one of the nation's stingiest scoring defenses, the host Terps struggled to create offensive chances and, when they did, seldom finished.
For a moment, it looked as if the Blue Jays' debut in the Big Ten Conference could be a memorable one.
But just for a moment.
Up by one midway through the first half, the Terps took command by scoring 11 of the next 12 goals, holding Hopkins scoreless for 26:47 in a 17-4 win that ran their home winning streak at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex to 55.
In a game that rekindled memories of last year's regular-season win over the Jays, in which Maryland needed to rally from a halftime deficit for a 10-8 win, it was the Terps' ability to adjust on the fly that made the difference.
“Definitely, [it was] just our focus and our movement on offense," senior attacker Caroline Wannen said. "I remember last year, we had trouble getting a lot of good looks. Today, we had a lot of quality looks. It just took us a little while to finish on them.”
Wannen finished with two goals and four assists for Maryland (7-0, 1-0), which got a team-high four goals from sophomore attacker Caroline Steele (Severn).
But it was the play of freshman Kali Hartshorn and senior Emily Kift that might have proved most critical.
Hartshorn helped the Terps take 10 of 12 draw controls in the second half, after Hopkins (7-2, 0-1) had dominated draws in the first half. Kift, filling in for injured sophomore goalie Megan Taylor (Glenelg), made 10 saves, including several at point-blank range, in just the third start of her four-year career.
Taylor, who last week earned Epoch/US Lacrosse Magazine National Player of the Week honors after making 18 saves against Syracuse, suffered an unspecified minor injury in practice and isn't expected to miss significant time, according to coach Cathy Reese.
Despite Taylor's absence, the Jays couldn't take advantage, scoring on four of their 22 shots and missing their only two free-position chances.
“We had a couple of missed opportunities offensively that could've really helped continue our momentum," coach Janine Tucker said. "Then we lost a couple of draws that really allowed Maryland to build some momentum on their end. I just don't think we generated enough offensive opportunities for ourselves. That's also a credit to Maryland. They kind of forced you to play outside of your comfort zone.”
Leading 3-2 after a goal by Hopkins senior midfielder Haley Schweizer, the Terps began to roll, beating the Jays to loose balls, drawing fouls and scoring five straight goals in a span of 3:22.
Hopkins pulled to within four on a goal by sophomore attacker Miranda Ibello (Maryvale) with 6:50 to play before halftime. The Jays nearly scored twice more before the break, but failed to further cut into the lead.
Maryland then took command, scoring the first seven goals of the second half to build a 14-3 lead with 17:25 to play.
“As the game kind of progressed, we sort of settled in," Reese said. "We talked at halftime about doing a better job offensively, moving off-ball and creating opportunities. We came out, we did much better on the draw, much better fighting for the ball … then moving on offense to create opportunities.”
Reese said her team in the second half played as well as it has all season. Though that wasn't the case for Hopkins, Tucker said the Jays will likely improve as a result.
“A game like this is phenomenal," Tucker said. "It exposes some things that we want to work on. It shows that we can hang early on, but we've got to be able to sustain that momentum. This is a game you take so much away from to help make your team better.”