Trying to formulate a defensive game plan against the Towson women's lacrosse team is a challenge for opponents this season.
In two of their games, including Tuesday's 17-8 win at American, nine Tigers scored goals. Seven scored in the other game. That balance of offensive power has helped the Tigers get off to a 3-0 start that includes their first win over Loyola in 26 years.
"Our attack is so well-balanced, and that's harder for an opponent to defend. You can't just mark one of our girls. Anybody can score," said junior midfielder Britt Woodfield, a South Carroll graduate.
Woodfield is one of eight players with three or more goals. Hillary Fratzke, the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week, leads the team with eight goals and seven assists.
Tigers coach Missy Doherty said developing that kind of balanced attack has been a priority.
"That's one of the things I wanted to do as far as recruiting, and how the team plays in general - have a team where seven players go down on offense and you don't know where the goals are going to come from."
In addition to balance, the Tigers this spring also have more depth and more experience with 14 seasoned upperclassmen.
With those improvements, they are halfway to last year's win total and they have an excellent chance to improve on their 6-9 record from 2007.
A year ago, the Tigers went 1-4 in one-goal games, but now, they should be sharper in finishing off the close ones. They avenged one with Saturday's 14-9 win at Loyola, after falling, 11-10, last season.
They can reverse another 11-10 loss Saturday when they play host to George Washington.
Memorial Day weekend, Towson will host the NCAA final four, and Woodfield said that has provided motivation, although the Tigers aren't getting too far ahead of themselves, especially considering they have never been to the final four.
"Getting there is always in the back of our minds," Woodfield said. "It's something we're working for each day, and having it at Towson is more incentive, but first we have to get into the CAA tournament. We missed out on that last year."
The most maligned part of Maryland's game in recent years has been its defense, but the fourth-ranked Terrapins had an exceptionally strong showing Tuesday night in their 8-5 home upset of No. 2 Virginia, the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference champion.
Senior goalie Allie Buote had one of the best performances of her career with 10 saves, many of them at key points in a close game. The St. Mary's graduate made four saves in shutting out the Cavaliers for the first 24:34 of the game. She also had a save with 1:30 left and the Terps clinging to a 7-5 lead.
"This was an incredible game for Allie," teammate Dana Dobbie said. "I can't even begin to comment on some of those saves she made. They were outstanding."
So was the rest of the defense, anchored by line defenders Katie Pumphrey, Karissa Taylor and Megan Cassara, but well executed all over the field.
"I thought Maryland's defense did a great job sliding and really making it hard for us to get some good lanes to goal," Virginia coach Julie Myers said. "The defense coupled with the goalie making the saves, I think that was one of the best defensive performances I've seen out of a Maryland team in a long time." katherine.dunn @baltsun.com