Friday night, High Point's women's lacrosse team won the first NCAA tournament game in the program's history. Sunday, No. 1 Maryland showed the Panthers just how much further they have to go.
The Terps, seeded No. 1 in the tournament for a fifth straight year, took a 10-goal lead late in the first half and rolled, 21-6, for their 64th straight victory at Maryland's Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex.
Maryland (20-0) will host No. 8-seeded Stony Brook in the quarterfinals Saturday at noon at the complex. The Seawolves (20-1) defeated Northwestern, 13-9, Sunday to advance to that round for the first time in program history.
In the offensive blitz against High Point, the Terps matched their season-high scoring output. Megan Whittle (McDonogh) led the way with five goals, while Zoe Stukenberg (Marriotts Ridge) had three goals and two assists. Kacie Longo (South River) scored a career-high four goals, and Caroline Steele (Severn) contributed two goals and two assists.
Despite the offensive outpouring, the Terps defense set the tone early. It forced a 90-second shot-clock turnover on High Point's first possession, and Megan Taylor (Glenelg) made saves on the Panthers' next two possessions.
The Terps turned all three stops into goals — two from Whittle and one from Jen Giles (Mount Hebron) — to lead 3-0 less than eight minutes into the game. The lead ballooned to 7-0 midway through the half.
"I thought defensively if we could stay disciplined and not try to get ahead of ourselves ... we could force them to take some low-angle shots or limit their opportunities and we did," Terps coach Cathy Reese said. "It started us off and we were able to finish it on the other end. Once we started to put a few away, we started to settle in offensively."
High Point coach Lyndsey Boswell, a Southern graduate, said her team came out a little hesitant on attack and that the early Terps stand didn't help.
"We had some good looks on cage," she said. "They have a great goalie that made some stops early in the game and I just think it took a little of our confidence away."
In Friday night's opening round, the Panthers (16-4) used their speed and quickness to defeat No. 19 Towson, 20-15, for their 16th straight win and only the program's second win over a ranked team, but that didn't give them an edge on the Terps.
Maryland's speed and quickness, combined with excellent ball movement, put their attack a step ahead of the Panthers on almost every possession.
The Terps answered every High Point goal with multiple goals and kicked in the running clock at 12-2 on Stukenberg's goal with 1:49 left in the first half.
Stukenberg said the Panthers' played a "sagged-in zone" defense that the Terps were ready for.
"I think that's the common theme of this year with the shot clock, teams sagging in and I thought that we were well prepared," she said. "I think the key to that is just moving the ball, keeping your feet moving, keeping your head up and everyone being dangerous. I think that our team has improved on that throughout the year, and today was a really good showing of that."
Erica Perrotta, who led High Point with two goals and an assist, scored to open the second half, cutting the Terps lead to 12-3, but Stukenberg, Steele and Whittle scored in succession to run the lead to 15-3 less than eight minutes into the half.
After that, Reese, who played high school lacrosse at Mount Hebron before starring as a Terps All-America attacker, went to her bench, at times leaving not a single starter in the game.
Maryland's defense, led by Nadine Hadnagy, Julie Braig (St. Paul's) and Morgan Torrgler (Severna Park), held the Panthers to their lowest scoring output since they opened with losses to the only other ranked teams they faced — No. 2 North Carolina, No. 20 Elon and No. 15 James Madison. They came into the game fourth in Division I in goals a game with 16.2.
Hadnagy, a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award along with Stukenberg, held High Point's top scorer, Samantha Brown (61 goals, 25 assists), to one assist.
The Panthers, who earned their NCAA tournament bid by winning the Big South tournament and include five Baltimore-area players among their starters, were thrilled to reach the second round and get the chance to play the Terps.
"It's just been really exciting," said High Point senior defender Christina Del Sesto, an Archbishop Spalding graduate. "I never expected at the beginning of the year to actually make it this far. Just looking back at the whole season and remembering the hard work we put in every single day, I'm just so proud of the girls and so excited to see the future."
Maryland's victory was its 65th in the NCAA tournament — a record along with its 28 straight appearances in the tournament, its 33 total appearances and its 12 NCAA championships. Its 13 national titles overall is also a record.