Wednesday night's top 10 women's lacrosse showdown between Maryland and Princeton figured to be a defensive battle with the teams anchored by the two stingiest goalies in Division I.
Terps sophomore Megan Taylor entered the game with a .590 save percentage. Only Princeton senior Ellie DeGarmo had a better percentage, .592.
DeGarmo and the No. 7 Tigers, however, hadn't seen an offense like No. 1 Maryland's.
The Terps (14-0) scored the first six goals and rode the hot start to a 18-12 victory for their 12th straight win over Princeton on Wednesday night at Maryland's Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, where they have won 60 consecutive games.
Maryland's 15th goal — the most the Tigers (9-2) have allowed all season — came with 20:55 left in the game when Zoe Stukenberg gave Maryland a 15-7 lead. DeGarmo, a Bryn Mawr graduate, had given up an average of just 8.55 goals, but the Terps scored their ninth goal with 11:40 left in the first half.
DeGarmo finished with 15 saves, but the Terps peppered her all night, outshooting the Tigers, 47-27.
"I thought they played extremely well,” Princeton coach Chris Sailer said of the Terps. “They’re athletic, they’re fast and they go hard. I think we just got back on our heels and weren’t ready right from the start and had trouble winning the draws. That was the biggest issue early and we were able to close the gap on that later in the half when we made some progress of our own.”
Megan Whittle kicked off the hot start scoring just 29 seconds into the game. The McDonogh graduate, who faced DeGarmo in high school, scored another goal in the run while Kali Hartshorn added three. Jen Giles' free-position goal less than eight minutes into the game gave the Terps a 6-0 lead with a 10-0 advantage in shots.
"It's everything," Whittle said of getting a quick start.
"I think coming out, getting that first draw control, having that first possession, especially in a big game like this, a top-10 matchup, we're jittery, we've been in the locker room for a while, to be able to settle for a second and execute right away, that's the biggest thing," she said. "In the beginning, we were up six goals and it's a momentum thing where you could tell the Princeton defense were hanging their head a little bit and we were very excited and I think that started something Maryland prides itself on."
The Tigers cut the lead to 6-2 on goals from Colby Chanenchuk and Kathryn Hallett, but the Terps answered with goals from Giles (Mount Hebron), Whittle and Caroline Steele (Severn) to run the lead back to six. The Tigers would not get closer.
Dominating possession early in the game, the Terps eliminated what seemed to be a potential advantage for the Tigers — the sun shining into Taylor's eyes. Princeton turned the ball over the first three times it set up its offense in front of the goal. Maryland's Julia Braig (St. Paul's) came up with all three ground balls.
Taylor, who finished with 11 saves, didn't face a shot in the first 13 minutes, and by then the sun had settled behind a building, leaving the Glenelg graduate with a good look at a Tigers' offense that came into the game averaging 15.3 goals.
Whittle and Hartshorn finished with five goals each while Giles scored four and Stukenberg (Marriotts Ridge) had three.
Strength of schedule may also have played a part in the Terps taking a 30-8 lead in the series with the Tigers, one of the longest rivalries in the sport.
The Tigers, who haven't beaten Maryland since 2006, had faced just three ranked teams. No. 5 Penn State, which beat Princeton, 13-8, is the highest-ranked opponent, though it was No. 10 at the time. Maryland, on the other hand, upset defending national champion and then-No. 1 North Carolina, 13-10, in February and also have March wins over No. 3 Florida and No. 11 Syracuse, which was No. 4 at the time. The Terps won both by 10 goals.
The defending Big Ten champion, Maryland finishes the regular season with three conference games. The Terps play Ohio State at home Sunday at noon before taking to the road to face No. 6 Penn State on April 20 and No. 18 Northwestern on April 27.
The Terps, Penn State and Northwestern are all unbeaten in the Big Ten; Penn State and Northwestern play Thursday night.
Maryland returns home to host the Big Ten Conference tournament May 5-7.
Princeton 6 6 -- 12
Maryland 12 6 -- 18
Goals: P--Hallett 3, Doherty 2, Pansini 2, D'Orsi, George, Chanenchuk, Hompe, Leavell; M--Whittle 5, Hartshorn 5, Giles 4, Stukenberg 3, Steele. Assists: P--George, Chanenchuk, Hompe, Sullivan; M--Hensh 2, Hartshorn, Giles, Stukenberg, Wannen. Saves: P--DeGarmo 11; M--Taylor 15.