No. 3 Maryland women's lacrosse surges past No. 15 Penn State, 13-8
By Rich Scherr
For The Baltimore Sun|
Apr 19, 2018 at 9:45 PM
COLLEGE PARK — Nearly a year after falling to Maryland in a lopsided NCAA semifinal, Penn State came to College Park on Thursday intent to prove it could play with the defending national champion.
The No. 15 Nittany Lions did just that for most of the night, using a tenacious defense anchored by goalie Lucy Lowe, a freshman from Notre Dame Prep, to hold one of the nation's most prolific offenses largely in check.
At least for a half.
Up by a goal late in the first half, the host Terps scored five straight — including four by senior Megan Whittle (McDonogh) — while holding Penn State scoreless for the next 21:48 in a 13-8 win, setting up next week's regular-season finale against No. 7 Northwestern in what likely will decide the regular-season conference champion.
"Tonight our defense was really strong, coming up with ground balls and coming up with big stops," midfielder Grace Griffin (Liberty) said. "Knowing that maybe our shots were off and maybe their goalie was going to make some saves, we had to keep going. We couldn't let that get into our head. We had to keep playing our game."
Whittle's fifth goal, with 3:47 left, stopped a late run in which Penn State scored four times in less than two minutes, time and again winning draws and quickly pushing the ball downfield to turn a blowout into an 11-8 deficit.
"I thought this was our best defensive effort this season, minus those two minutes," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said.
Maryland (15-1, 5-0 Big Ten), whose lone loss came in overtime against North Carolina in February, has won 73 straight games at its Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex, and hasn't lost in College Park since 2012.
Whittle finished with five goals, while Griffin finished with two goals and three assists.
Penn State (9-6, 3-2) looked poised for an upset early, outplaying Maryland for much of the first half, but finding little to show for it.
The Nittany Lions outshot the Terps 11-6 through the first 15 minutes, and defensively stood their ground. Entering the night having successfully cleared 93 percent of their attempts, the Terps failed to clear three of their first eight.
Penn State, however, couldn't take advantage, making just three of its first 16 shots, including one of six free-positions.
Maryland, meanwhile, built an early 2-0 lead on quick goals by Kali Hartshorn and Griffin, both off feeds from Jen Giles (Mount Hebron).
Then, after Penn State battled back to take the game on two goals by top scorer Katie O'Donnell, Maryland answered on Griffin's free-position that hit off the shoulder of Lowe and bounced in, followed by a quick-hitter from Brindi Griffin (McDonogh) to Caroline Steele (Severn).
After senior Maggie Gallagher (C. Milton Wright) again pulled Penn State to within a goal, the Terps built their lead back to two with 28 seconds left in the half, when Whittle, who last week passed Jen Adams for the school's all-time goal lead, split two defenders and fired a low shot to Lowe's left and into the net.
"We needed a goal," Reese said. "We had a bit of a scoring draught in the first half, and [Whittle] came through big tonight."
Whittle then gave Maryland its largest lead of the game, 6-3, when she spun to her right, split two defenders and again fired past Lowe to start the second half.
Still, the frigid temperatures and harsh winds wreaked havoc with an offense that entered the night averaging 16 goals per game.
"I thought we got a lot of good looks in the first half. I think we were a little cold," Reese said. "We bobbled some balls. Just things that would normally result in good looks for us, we just kind of turned the ball over."
Still, the upset-minded Nittany Lions didn't stand down, and made a game of it by scoring four straight in a quick surge late in the second half.