COLLEGE PARK — Maryland attacker Caroline Steele laughs when she says her favorite part of a Terps lacrosse game is hearing Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” blasting from the loudspeakers.
That only happens when she scores a goal and it rang out Saturday after Steele sealed the No. 4 Terps’ 15-12 victory over previously undefeated and No. 3 James Madison in front of a record crowd of 2,361 at Maryland’s Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex. The Severn graduate slipped a low shot between two defenders to stop a three-goal James Madison run and give the Terps their final three-goal lead with 2:04 left.
“They were kind of mounting a little comeback and tension was getting a little high,” said Steele, who finished with three goals. “We were all just going hard and luckily, I got that one little step and I just ripped it. I didn’t even know it went in until everyone cheered.”
The Terps (8-1) needed every ounce of offense against James Madison (8-1), which was off to its best start in 30 years. The Dukes opened the season with a win over then-No. 3 North Carolina, the only team the Terps have lost to. Both were overtime games.
The defending national champions made a quick recovery after beating another previously undefeated team, No. 7 Penn, 13-7, on Thursday in Philadelphia. The Terps now lead the series with the Dukes 41-3 and haven’t lost to them in 15 years.
On Saturday, the Dukes did just about everything they could to try to pull the upset and keep the Terps from winning their 69th straight game at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex. They outshot Maryland, had more ground balls and fewer turnovers while giving the Terps trouble with their zone defense.
“They were just physical. They’re good one-v-one defenders,” Steele said. “They’re just a great tight defense and we each had to find those quick second openings to get open, but they were tough to beat one-v-one and feeding-wise.”
The game started with ties at 1, 2 and 3 before the Terps scored four straight goals, the biggest run of the game that gave them the lead for good. Freshman Grace Griffin (Liberty) scored the first of her four goals on a free-position shot with 11:36 left in the first half to give the Terps a 7-3 lead. Another free-position goal from Griffin gave the Terps their biggest lead of the game, 12-6, just under nine minutes into the second half.
Maryland, which got five points each from Griffin and Megan Whittle (McDonogh), had eight assisted goals despite many of the Terps’ 18 turnovers coming on the attacking end where the Dukes had most of their 12 caused turnovers.
“They’re a very good driving team,” said Dukes coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe, a Loch Raven graduate who played for the Dukes. “Everything they do is initiated by one-v-ones, so you have to take something away. We made a choice to go into a zone to take away one-v-ones knowing that was going to open up feeds, but a feed is something that you can contest … so just trying to take them away from their strengths — they have many — and trying to limit them on what they do well.”
The Dukes did that late in the second half and Maryland needed several big defensive stands to hold onto the lead. Last year’s National Goalie of the Year Megan Taylor (Glenelg) made five of her 12 saves in the final 17 minutes even though the Dukes outscored Maryland 6-3 in the last 20 minutes.
Whittle’s free-position goal gave the Terps a 14-9 lead with 14:47 to go, but after Kristen Gaudian scored her fourth goal of the game and Katie Kerrigan added another for the Dukes to cut the lead to 14-11, Maryland coach Cathy Reese called a timeout.
“We kind of lost ourselves defensively in the middle of the second half,” Reese said, “and we were able to reset and come through and stop a run of theirs. … Offensively, we were finding a rhythm and I think we had way too many turnovers to our liking, but we did some nice things at the end of the second half to come away with it.”
The Terps raised $8,600 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation at Saturday’s Diabetes Awareness Game. They will be back in action Wednesday hosting Georgetown at 6 p.m.
James Madison 5 7 — 12
Maryland 9 6 — 15
Goals: JM—Gaudian 4, Romesburg 3, Warden 2, Kerrigan, Hardt, Haven; M—G.Griffin 4, Whittle 3, Steele 3, Giles 2, Hartshorn, Hensh, Siverson. Assists: JM— Guadian, Kerrigan, Warden; M—Whittle 2, Giles 2, Hartshorn, B. Griffin, G.Griffin, Hensh. Saves: JM—Harmeyer 7; M—Taylor 12.