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No. 1 Terps women's lacrosse routs No. 14 Northwestern, 17-4, to keep rivalry one-sided

When Maryland joined the Big Ten Conference nearly two years ago, there were a number of alluring matchups in various sports between the Terps and their new foes. But one that stood out was Maryland-Northwestern women's lacrosse, which featured perhaps the game's most storied program in the Terps and a Wildcats program that had won seven national titles in eight years.

A future of tightly contested, high-level games appeared to be a given.

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But Maryland dominated in two meetings last year. And when the teams met Thursday night at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex, it was more of the same. The top-ranked, two-time defending national champion Terps never trailed and surged away from the No.14 Wildcats, 17-4, in their Big Ten Conference opener behind five goals from midfielder Taylor Cummings (McDonogh) and four from attacker Megan Whittle (McDonogh).

"[It was a] huge game for us," defender Alice Mercer (Century) said. "Northwestern's always been a great program and playing them last year and then two years ago in semis, we've kind of developed a really good rivalry with them. Obviously, we're excited with starting the Big Ten with them and opening up at home which makes it more fun."

The victory marked coach Cathy Reese's 100th career win in College Park. She's lost just twice at home in her 10-year tenure at Maryland. The Terps are on a 46-game home winning streak and haven't lost a conference game at home in more than 10 years. In the past three meetings with Northwestern, Maryland has a 50-14 scoring advantage.

That dominance was on full display as the Terps (9-0, 1-0 Big Ten) controlled the majority of the game against the Wildcats (4-5, 0-1). Maryland held a 35-22 shot advantage, and though draw controls were relatively even — Maryland had 13, Northwestern 10 — the Terps grabbed 21 ground balls to the Wildcats' seven, and the defense helped force 14 Northwestern turnovers.

"I thought our defense played the best game I've ever seen a Maryland defense play, and that really pumps you up as an attacker and an offense," Whittle said. "When you see all the turnovers that we've caused and everything, it makes you want to score a million goals, it makes you want to attack and possess the ball. I thought our defense played really well."

"I think we played a really complete game today," said Reese, who added that she thought it was the Terps' best performance of the season.

Maryland got off to a blazing start and took a 4-0 lead less than five minutes into the game behind goals from four players. But Northwestern started getting more possession and worked to slow the pace. The Terps went almost 20 minutes without a goal while the Wildcats added two of their own, and despite an 18-10 shots advantage, Maryland took only a 5-2 lead into halftime. Northwestern goalie Mallory Weisse had eight saves in the first 30 minutes.

At halftime, though, Reese didn't tell her team to change anything. The Terps were getting the open looks, and it was only Weisse's saves and some self-inflicted mistakes that were hampering their offensive effort.

"We just need to take the best opportunities on offense, and I think that we had long defensive sets, so we were down here for a while," Mercer said. "When we did get the ball out and cleared out, we were kind of just forcing it on offense because we wanted to get the fast break."

So in the second half, the Terps left little doubt. After Northwestern attacker Danita Stroup scored with 23:57 left in the game to cut Maryland's lead to 7-3, the Terps scored six straight goals. And after Wildcats attacker Christina Esposito cut the lead to nine with 13:39 left, the Terps powered to the finish with four more goals to record their fifth game this season with at least 17 goals.

Midfielder Zoe Stukenberg (Marriotts Ridge) had a hat trick, while midfielder Caroline Steele (Severn) added two goals. Midfielder Kacie Longo (South River), defender Morgan Torggler (Severna Park) and midfielder Jen Giles (Mount Hebron) rounded out the scoring. And behind a defense that limited Northwestern's opportunities, goalie Megan Taylor (Glenelg) had 11 saves.

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