The Towson women's lacrosse team has been the victim of a challenging non-conference schedule this spring. The defending Colonial Athletic Association champion took on national powers such as North Carolina, Georgetown, Loyola and Johns Hopkins before eventually losing to each.
Facing their biggest test of the season Tuesday night, the host Tigers gave top-ranked Maryland fits, at times looking primed to finally pull off the elusive upset.
Until, that is, reality set in.
Clinging to a one-goal lead at the break, the Terrapins pulled away with five straight goals to open the second half, the first three by midfielder Katie Schwarzmann, before surviving Towson's late surge in an 11-8 win. It was Maryland's closest game this season, after also surviving a scare from Hofstra, another CAA foe, early this month.
"Give Towson a lot of credit," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. "They came out today playing hard. They were fighting all over the field."
Towson's defense held the Terps to just 11 of 30 shooting, with four of their goals coming on free positions.
"I think it's just a great indicator of where we've been this season — the tough schedule, and how that's helping us as we move forward," Towson coach Sonia LaMonica said. "Playing the top team in the country, and playing them tough. Yes, we came up short today, but we remain excited about where we go from here in our season."
Schwarzmann finished with five goals and two assists for Maryland, which improved to 12-0, its longest winning streak to open a season since winning 18 straight in 2011.
It was the Terrapins' third win in as many games — and fourth this season — against a CAA opponent. By comparison, pre-season CAA favorite Towson (1-7) has yet to face a single conference foe.
More important to Maryland players, however, the game ended an 11-day stretch in which the Terps had to face four of their five opponents on the road. They now get the luxury of remaining in College Park for nearly three weeks, with home dates on tap against No. 20 Penn, No. 3 North Carolina and No. 15 Dartmouth.
Towson (1-7), which got four goals off the bench from senior Olivia Turner, now has lost five straight, with six of its losses this season coming against ranked teams.
But a far bigger loss for the Tigers could be that of midfielder Kelly Custer, who entered the game as their leading scorer before suffering an apparent right knee injury while cutting toward the goal with just under 10 minutes left in the first half. She was carried off the field in obvious pain, and later carted away.
Custer, a senior, had entered the night just six points shy of becoming the first Towson player since 2009 to reach the 100-point mark for her career.
Towson played the role of aggressor in the opening minutes, taking a 2-1 lead on a pair of goals by Turner in the first 6:07. After the first 22 minutes, the Tigers had scored more goals (four) than they did in all off last year's loss to the Terrapins.
They trailed 6-5 when Turner struck again off a feed from Jackie LaMonica (Hereford) with 1:39 left in the half.
"They were outworking us to balls all over the field," Schwarzmann said. "I think defensively we weren't helping each other out and forcing them where we wanted them. They just came out wanting it more than us."
After Maryland had struggled on draw controls, Reese moved freshman Taylor Cummings (McDonogh) to the circle, and was rewarded with a huge change of fortune. Maryland won eight of nine draw controls in the second half, keeping possession for large chunks of time.
"Our feet sort of got planted and we were sort of just reaching for it [on draws]," Reese said. "We just had to run through a little more as opposed to kind of waiting for the ball to come to us, which it wasn't doing."