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Slow start barely bothers No. 2 Maryland women’s lacrosse in 14-3 rout of No. 7 Michigan

The formula had a familiar ring to the Maryland women’s lacrosse team: strong goaltending plus opportunistic offense equals positive results.

And for the first 11 minutes, visiting Michigan employed that strategy to near perfection. But as the No. 7 Wolverines learned, maintaining that level of play is an entirely different matter as the No. 2 Terps rolled to a 14-3 thumping before an announced 6,540 at Maryland Stadium on Saturday evening.

Maryland improved to 14-0 overall and 4-0 in the Big Ten, tagging Michigan (13-1, 3-1) with its first loss. But it did not begin easily for the Terps, who extended their home winning streak to a program-record 84 games.

Just 33 seconds into the first half, Wolverines sophomore midfielder Maggie Kane dodged the left alley and beat senior goalkeeper Megan Taylor (Glenelg) for a 1-0 lead. Then on three successive Maryland offensive possessions, Michigan senior goalie Mira Shane turned back high-percentage shots by senior midfielder Meghan Siverson, junior attacker Brindi Griffin (McDonogh) and graduate midfielder Erica Evans.

Terps coach Cathy Reese acknowledged the page the Wolverines had appeared to lift from her team’s playbook.

“We had some good looks at the goal, and their goalie made some fantastic saves early on,” said Reese, who improved to 262-21 as the winningest head coach in school history. “We just needed to kind of get in our groove. So once that happened, we started to kind of take an extra second and put the ball around their keeper, who moves around a lot and is real aggressive in there. So I think once that started to fall, it opened up some stuff to give us a pretty nice cushion going into halftime.”

Maryland appeared tie the score with 20:40 left in the first half, but Griffin’s goal was waved off after officials ruled she had stepped into the crease before releasing her shot. But 2:21 later, senior attacker Caroline Steele (Severn) drove past Kane from the right wing and scored from the right side of the crease to make it 1-1.

That opened the floodgates for the Terps, who scored eight unanswered goals over a span of 8:08 and entered halftime leading by a comfortable 8-1 margin.

Senior midfielder Jen Giles (Mount Hebron), who amassed a game-high five points on four goals and one assist, said the offense extended Michigan’s defense to find gaps in the unit’s interior.

“We figured out how to spread them wide so that the slides were longer, and everyone was working together and working for each other and really communicating, which is something we worked on in practice,” she said. “So I think we were really able to find some openings.”

Giles was helped by two goals each from Evans, Griffin and sophomore midfielder Grace Griffin (Liberty) and one goal and one assist each from Steele and junior attacker Kali Hartshorn as Maryland peppered a Michigan defense that had entered the game ranked No. 7 among NCAA Division I teams at 10.0 goals per game.

But the Terps never trailed after that 11-minute opening thanks to a defense anchored by Taylor’s 10 saves. She also got some help from redshirt junior defender Meghan Doherty (Mount Hebron), who shut out sophomore attacker Caitlin Muir, and senior defender Julia Braig (St. Paul’s), who limited senior attacker Adriana Pendino (team-high 33 goals) to one assist. Junior attacker Lilly Grass, who was tied with Muir for the team lead in points with 39, finished with more turnovers (two) than points (zero) and was pulled in the second half.

“We knew their big guns, and we really paid attention to them,” Braig said. “At the end of the day, we respect every single attacker down there. So we were ready to send help and have each other’s backs all over the field and really just attack the ball when it’s down and come out with it and give it to our offense.”

The Wolverines, who had ranked No. 14 in the country in offense at 14.3 goals per game, did not have a player finish with more than one point as they were held to their lowest output. Coach Hannah Nielsen said she thought the offense was too tentative.

“We came in with a game plan to go after them and attack them, and that’s what you’ve got to do,” she said. “They’ve got a great defense. You’ve got make them move, you’ve got to shift them, and you’ve got to have confidence that you can beat them one-v-one. We just played a little bit on our heels offensively. I thought defensively in that first stretch, to hold them to one goal for about 10 minutes was awesome, but we just couldn’t get the job done on the other end.”

Michigan; 1; 2; —; 3

Maryland; 8; 6; —; 14

Goals: Mi—Garrett, Kane, Stewart; Ma—Giles 4, Evans 2, B.Griffin 2, G.Griffin 2, Hartshorn, May, Steele, Warther. Assists: Mi—Pendino; Ma—Giles, Hartshorn, Steele. Saves: Mi—Shane 12; Ma—Taylor 10.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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