COLLEGE PARK — The Maryland women's lacrosse team had to wait through more than two hours of storm delays Saturday to get its shot at top-ranked North Carolina, the team that stifled the Terps in last year's national championship game.
Once play began, however, the second-ranked Terps wasted little time jumping on the veteran-laden Tar Heels.
Paced by three goals each by sophomore Jen Giles and senior Zoe Stukenberg, Maryland built an early four-goal lead, then held tough down the stretch for a 13-10 win at Maryland Stadium. That ended North Carolina's school-record 20-game winning streak and made the Terps the presumed No. 1 team when the new rankings are released.
Though Maryland coach Cathy Reese puts little stock in early season rankings, she didn't mince words when talking about the importance of such a strong performance by her young players.
"They've got a lot of fight in them, a lot of heart," Reese said. "We had to see how our players were going to respond. We don't have a whole lot of veteran players out there, so these guys did a great job. We came out fighting hard and hustled all over the place. It was nice to see."
Maryland (3-0), playing its first game at the school's football stadium in a decade, ran its home winning streak to 53 dating to 2012.
Despite relying extensively on their highly touted freshman class, the Terps led from start to finish in a rematch of three of the past four NCAA title games. Though dominated in draw controls (18-7) by North Carolina senior Sammy Jo Tracy, Maryland time and again played well defensively to stop the Tar Heels (3-1).
Goalie Megan Taylor (Glenelg) finished with nine saves, including several from point-blank range.
Offensively, Giles (Mount Hebron) finished with three goals and three assists, helping Maryland build an 11-5 lead by midway through the second half.
"They were sending the double [team] early, so that opened up one of our players," Giles said. "I was just trying to keep my eyes open and handle whatever they threw at me."
After waiting out a pair of extended lightning delays during the men's portion of the doubleheader, the Terps jumped out of the gate, scoring on each of their first three shots. Kali Hartshorn, Taylor Hensch (Marriotts Ridge) and Megan Whittle (McDonogh) scored during the stretch to give Maryland a 3-0 lead just 3:22 into the game.
After a free-position goal by the Tar Heels' Carly Reed (three goals), the Terps extended their lead to 5-1 on a free-position marker by Giles and a goal by Stukenberg (Marriotts Ridge) off a feed from Giles.
Later, leading by three at the half, Maryland fortified its lead on back-to-back goals by Caroline Wannen, the second after North Carolina's Caroline Wakefield hit the post on a free position.
Minutes later, after the Tar Heels' Carly Davis was whistled for a yellow card, Stukenberg scored a man-up goal on a feed from Hensch, giving Maryland an 11-5 lead, its largest of the game.
"Everyone was just in sync, and it was just a lot of fun to have things clicking early," Stukenberg said. "I think that just kind of carried throughout the whole game. It was definitely nice to get out to a big lead."
Whittle, Hartshorn and Wannen finished with two goals apiece for the Terps, who now lead the all-time series with Tar Heels, 25-13. Players insisted that last year's 13-7 loss to North Carolina in the title game wasn't a factor.
"We weren't focused on anything [that happened] last year," Giles said. "We just wanted to make a statement about this team. It's a new year and we're starting out fresh. [We] just wanted to show everyone what we've got."