By Alex Mann
Powered by dominant performances from Zoe Stukenburg and Megan Taylor, the No. 1 Maryland Women’s Lacrosse team overpowered, outwitted and outclassed No. 3 Florida en route to a commanding 18-8 victory.
Faced with constant harassment from the Gators, who committed 55 fouls and collected at least seven yellow cards, the Terps maintained their composure, catching fire offensively and locking down defensively.
“I’m really proud of my team and how they stayed composed,” Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. “It’s frustrating when you’re fouled a lot and consistently, and for these girls to really be able to bring each other up and take care of each other on the field really speaks volumes to this team and their character.”
Maryland’s stifling defense, led by senior defender Nadine Hadnagy and goalkeeper Megan Taylor, held a Florida offense that averages just over 16 goals per game to half that. The Terps also held Mollie Stevens, the Gator’s top goal scorer coming in, goalless.
Taylor compiled 20 saves on the day, eight of which came within the first 15 minutes.
“It’s very comforting knowing Meg’s there,” Hadnagy said. “You try to get [the attacking player] wide enough where she can make that low-angle save and she’s always going to make that low-angle save.”
On the offensive end the Terps were merciless. Maryland topped season averages for goals per game (18), shots per game (36) and free position percentage (50).
Senior midfielder Zoe Stukenburg paced the team with five goals, while Caroline Steele, Megan Whittle and Brindi Griffin each recorded hat tricks for Maryland.
“If someone’s having a bad day, we have such a deep bench with so many people that can do just as well,” Griffin said. “It’s fun.”
Caroline Wannen added four assists, while Jen Giles and Taylor Hensh had two goals apiece.
The game didn’t always look like a blowout, as the score was 6-3 at the end of a tightly contested first half, in which the Gators outshot the Terps 24-7 and picked up more ground balls (12) than Maryland (seven).
Florida went a perfect 11 for 11 on clears in the first period, while the Terps went eight for 10. The opponents both turned the ball over six times.
Reese acknowledged that during the first half, her team didn’t shoot particularly well and played sloppy on offense, but since they still managed to enter halftime with a three-goal lead they could put the woes behind them.
“We didn’t watch film of Florida for them or anything, we just took a focus on us,” Reese said. “So you can try to explain everything, and explain how fast their offense is… but you don’t really know until you’re living in the moment.”
The second half was a different story: Maryland unleashed a high-scoring offense, while abating a productive Gator attack.
“I’m really proud of our effort on both ends today,” Reese said.