Syracuse, N.Y. — Gary Gait walked into the postgame interview room in the belly of the Carrier Dome and could only say what has been confirmed by this rivalry for several years.
"Woo," Gait said while taking his seat, "that's the No. 1 team in the country that came in and gave us more than we could handle today."
It was true last year in a national semifinal and the year before in the national championship game. And it was true after Saturday afternoon's 14-9 loss to the top-ranked Terps: The program that has stunted Syracuse's quest for women's lacrosse royalty got the better of the Orange yet again.
For more than 45 minutes, it looked as if a senior-laden Syracuse squad could finally get the better of the program that has ended its season in five of the previous seven years. But a 10-minute stretch saw Maryland grow its lead from one to six with four minutes to play, all but ensuring Maryland would board its team bus for the 5.5-hour drive back to campus unblemished at 5-0 and still atop the polls.
And for a group that returns five starters from last year's national title team and starts a freshman goalkeeper, that has to sound good to Terps coach Cathy Reese.
Of course, Maryland still boasts Taylor Cummings (McDonogh), the two-time Tewaaraton Award winner who netted a hat trick in the second half and filled up the stat sheet in plenty of other ways, including picking up four groundballs, forcing three turnovers and winning a few faceoff draws.
"Phenomenal across the board," Reese said. Cummings scored all three of her goals in the decisive 8-2 run to close the game since Syracuse grabbed the lead at the 22:45 mark.
"We were trying to make something happen," said Gait, "and instead of making plays, we caused more turnovers for ourselves."
Orange senior attack Kayla Treanor matched Cummings, her U.S. national team teammate, with three goals, and Syracuse's other potent senior attack Halle Majorana, a Maryland transfer, netted two goals and two assists.
But Syracuse finished just 1-for-6 on free-position chances (Maryland converted 7-of-11 opportunities), as the Terps' freshman goalkeeper, Megan Taylor (Glenelg), came up big in several 1-on-1 situations and "anchored the defense," according to Reese.
"There's such a difference being a goalkeeper at the high school level and being a goalkeeper at the college game," Reese said of Taylor, who was named the starter two weeks ago. "To step in and be put in a position to start as a freshman, I think your eyes are caught wide open at times, and she has really embraced this challenge and run with it."
Maryland's Taylor Hensh (Marriotts Ridge) led all players with five points (four goals, one assist).
The Terps answered with two goals in the final minute of the first half to erase a one-goal deficit and led 6-5 at the break.
Gait fell to 1-10 all-time against Maryland, where he was a former assistant. No. 3 Syracuse (6-2), which has lost two straight, is still expected to contend for an Atlantic Coast Conference championship.
And, there's always the possibility of returning to the final four, which could also mean another chance for him and his program to finally break through against its nemesis.