The relationship between Maryland women’s lacrosse players Caroline Steele and Megan Taylor got off to an inauspicious start.
Immediately after their participation in the Under Armour Underclass tournament during the summer of 2014, Steele, an attacker for the Washington team, and Taylor, a goalkeeper for the Baltimore squad, were walking their separate ways when Taylor’s father Gary tracked down Steele to set up an introduction with his daughter.
“Literally, it was like, ‘Hi, I’m Caroline.’ ‘Hi, I’m Megan.’ ‘OK, good job,’ ” Steele recalled Tuesday.
Added Taylor: “I was like, ‘Oh my God, Dad, you’re embarrassing me!’ I had the goalie bag, and I was trudging along, and I couldn’t go fast enough.”
The next year, Taylor and Steele found themselves as freshmen sharing a suite on campus in College Park. Amid “The Office” episodes, ice cream runs and lacrosse practices, Steele, a Severna Park native and Severn graduate, and Taylor, a Glenelg native and graduate, gradually developed into best friends.
“We would start a conversation and just laugh,” Taylor said. “I’d say 95 percent of our conversations are normally laughter. There’s not a lot of seriousness going on.”
Steele and Taylor usually save their seriousness for the field, where they have been perennial fixtures for the No. 2 Terps (4-0). Both four-year starters, Taylor is a two-time All-American (a first-team selection in 2017) and a two-time Big Ten Goaltender of the Year, and Steele was a third-team All-American last spring and the 2017 Big Ten tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
The duo sparked Maryland to a 13-12 overtime win against No. 3 North Carolina on Sunday. Steele scored the game-winning goal just 14 seconds into the second period of the extra session, and Taylor made a game-high 14 saves, including two point-blank stops in the final four minutes of regulation.
Their performances continue to exemplify their value to the program, junior attacker Kali Hartshorn said.
“They’re big-time players, and ever since they stepped foot on this campus, they’ve been playing,” she said. “I think that really showed on Sunday.”
To their teammates and coaches, Taylor and Steele are the program’s unofficial version of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, a pair of witty, self-deprecating stars who enjoy provoking laughter.
Their relationship is so strong that they are the hosts of a university-produced show on social media called “Thumbs Up,” which can be traced to their habit of posing for pictures with said positive signs. They have recorded four episodes (three have been released via the team’s official Twitter account, @MarylandWLax), and four more are planned before the end of the season.
In one episode, Steele and Taylor tested their knowledge of each other by guessing each other’s least favorite foods and celebrity crushes. In another episode, they participated in a jellybean challenge in which some tasted like strawberry banana or chocolate pudding and some tasted like rotten eggs or canned dog food.
“I make Caroline do most of the talking and then I just jump in,” Taylor said. “We tried to let me do it, and I was just like, ‘No, no, no, you just do it, and I’ll jump in here and there.’ ”
“Sometimes it takes 20 takes because we just mess up, and I laugh at Meg, and Meg laughs at me,” Steele said.
Their on-screen chemistry plays out in the off-campus house where they live with Hartshorn and four other players. Taylor and Hartshorn live on the third floor, while Steele lives two levels below them.
“It’s funny how they’re so far apart, but every morning, I feel like I wake up and Caroline’s upstairs in Megan’s room,” Hartshorn said. “They have a friendship unlike any other I’ve seen. They’re polar opposites — completely — but when they’re together, it’s always a laugh.”
Despite their awkward start as high schoolers, Taylor said she and Steele immediately bonded over their experiences with older brothers.
“She grew up — since she’s the only girl — playing with her [four] brothers in their backyard, and I kind of grew up that way with my older brother,” she said. “So that was something that I immediately went, ‘Oh my God, we’re kind of the same personality.’ ”
Terps coach Cathy Reese said she can’t remember the first time Taylor and Steele made her laugh “because I haven’t stopped,” she said.
But Reese pointed out that the duo has been critical to the program’s success over the past three years which includes an appearance in the finals of the 2016 NCAA tournament, a 2017 national championship and a semifinal berth in the 2018 postseason.
“They’re both lax heads, and they want to win and be the best that they can be, and they’ll bring that to the field,” she said. “Now they’re seniors and living together, and they’re both All American-level players that are leaders on this team and have been on the field for four years. So here they are finishing up their senior years in their four-year careers and having a good time doing it.”
Steele and Taylor’s friendship has filtered to their parents, who jokingly call them “Sunshine and Butterfly.” Steele said she knows it is game day when she wakes up in the morning to a text from Taylor’s mother Terri imploring her to have fun.
Steele said Taylor’s 5-foot-3 height belies her reputation as one of the top goalkeepers in the sport.
“She’s a small person, and you would think of all positions, she would not be a goalie,” Steele said. “But she gets in the goal, and she’s one of the fiercest people I’ve ever played with.”
Taylor said she is confident that if the ball is in Steele’s stick, a positive outcome will follow, such as the game-winner against the Tar Heels.
“I thought, ‘Well, if anybody has it in her hands, I’m glad it’s Caroline,’ because pressure doesn’t really get to her,” Taylor said. “So I think she shows that you don’t need to be big like 6 feet. Caroline’s just really scrappy and can get the ground ball and go to the cage really hard.”
Both sociology majors, Steele and Taylor have concentrated on ending their final seasons at Maryland on a high note. After graduation, Steele has considered moving to California where her brothers live, and Taylor has said she would join Steele.