“Everyone, take three deep breaths,” Terps junior defender Nadine Hadnagy recalled Reese saying. One deep breath for every goal by which the Terps, undefeated for the season and unchallenged for much of it, trailed visiting Johns Hopkins.
A preview of Big Ten Conference play had turned into a midweek upset in the making. The No. 1 Terps trailed after 30 minutes for the first time all season. They had difficulty early catching and throwing. They did not look like the best team on the field, much less in the nation.
But Maryland is the defending national champion not just because of its talent but also because of its resolve to win another one. And after a gritty 10-8 win over the Blue Jays (8-6) before an announced 856, Reese was willing to take a lesson from a game most of her players, just an hour earlier, would have been forgiven for wanting to forget.
“It's nice to say now because we're on the winning end of it,” Reese said after the team's 11th victory in as many games, “but I think it was something that is going to teach us that we still can fight through.”
Hopkins opened the scoring and held Maryland without a goal for the opening 7:48, the Terps' longest such scoreless stretch to open a game. Soon after the Blue Jays took a 3-1 lead midway through the first half on senior midfielder Dene' DiMartino's second goal, goals by junior attacker Caroline Wannen and sophomore attacker Megan Whittle (McDonogh) tied the game at 3.
Then the trouble began.
A free-position shot by Maryland sophomore midfielder Taylor Hensh (Marriotts Ridge) ended in the belly of junior goalkeeper Caroline Federico (Maryvale Prep).
Hopkins' sideline jumped in delight after the Blue Jays outraced the Terps to a loose ball. Junior midfielder Haley Schweizer scored unassisted moments later for a 4-3 lead.
On the ensuing draw, Hopkins sophomore defender Emily Verica found herself with the ball and falling to the ground. As she became earthbound amid a crowd of Terps, she looped a blind pass back to senior midfielder-attacker Kristen Cannon.
The Jays' next goal was quintessential Maryland, which entered the game as the nation's second-ranked offense.
Schweizer drew a slide and found senior attacker Jenna Reifler (Roland Park). Reifler drew a second slide and found junior attacker Alexis Maffucci. Maffucci turned and found the net. The cheer seemed to last longer than the play, and Johns Hopkins led 5-3.
“The first half defensively, we were like a second behind on getting our help and slides there,” Reese said. “And they had some really nice shots, too.”
At the end of the half, Maryland junior midfielder Zoe Stukenberg (Marriotts Ridge) was called for a yellow card. On the ensuing free-position shot, DiMartino beat freshman goalkeeper Megan Taylor (Glenelg) high for a 6-3 lead with 19 seconds left.
The Blue Jays, who next season will join the Big Ten in lacrosse, bounded onto the field at halftime. They cheered and hugged.
Maryland scored the first goal of the second half, but it required patience.
Federico saved the first two shots. An obstructive stick blocked the next. Senior midfielder Taylor Cummings (McDonogh) missed the net on the next two attempts. Freshman attacker Caroline Steele (Severn) sent one wide. Only after Hensh found space on the left side did the net bulge and the deficit shrink to 6-4.
After the teams traded goals, Stukenberg spun and caught an errant limb. As she stumbled, she flung a shot past Federico for a 7-6 deficit with 20:33 remaining.
“Shooting from my two feet wasn't going so well,” she said after her two-goal game, tied for the team high, “so I guess we figured: Why not try one midair?”
Terps freshman midfielder Jen Giles (Mount Hebron) tied the game at 7 with a free-position shot with 17:12 remaining, but Hopkins made certain of its next possession.
It didn't end until nearly four minutes had elapsed. DiMartino juked and deked her way into a free-position shot and scored with 13:21 remaining, her fifth goal and the team's last.
Sophomore midfielder Kacie Longo (South River) tied the score at 8 with a free-position shot 48 seconds later, and nearly 50 minutes into the game, Maryland took its first lead. On another free-position opportunity, Steele found Hensh on the doorstep, and she scored for a 9-8 lead.
Cummings, held without a goal almost all night, scored her first with 2:59 remaining, weaving her way through a pressing defense and bouncing a shot that skipped into the net.
Said Blue Jays coach Janine Tucker afterward: “That was a hell of a good game.”