By Alex Mann
After completing their third straight undefeated regular season, the No. 1 Maryland Terrapins (17-0) women’s lacrosse team hosts the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (11-6) in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
Maryland won the regular season Big Ten Title and will be looking to defend their Big Ten Tournament Championship. The unbeaten Terps, however, are not looking past Friday night’s opponent.
“Anytime you go into a tournament setting you really need to focus on one game at a time,” Maryland head coach Cathy Reese said Wednesday. “Our focus is Friday night, us playing well, doing our thing, being prepared for our game and then looking to execute.”
The Terps scorched then No. 16 Johns Hopkins, to the tune of a 17-4 win, in their March 19 regular season clash.
Sophomore attacker Caroline Steele scored four goals against the Blue Jays in March. She’s also coming off a career-high six-goal (and one assist) performance against No. 15 Northwestern last week. Look for Steele to replicate her success, as Johns Hopkins will, surely, be overwhelmed by the task of slowing other members of Maryland’s top-ranked scoring offense.
Steele’s fellow attackers, senior Caroline Wannen (59 points) and junior Megan Whittle (64 points), were among the seven Terps to earn All Big Ten honors. Senior midfielder Zoe Stukenberg and sophomore midfielder Jen Giles were also part of the seven and are standout offensive and defensive players.
Midfielder Haley Schweizer highlights a list of three Hopkins players were named to the all conference squad – she leads the team in goals (33) and points (42). But Maryland’s defense has the stardom, talent and experience to quell a Johns Hopkins offense that scores just over 11 goals per game, which ranks 74th in the nation.
Senior defender Nadine Hadnagy and sophomore goalie Megan Taylor anchor the Maryland defense that surrenders nine goals per game, good for 16th nationally. Taylor’s save percentage of .55 is second best in the country. Between the two stars and the Terps other defensive stalwarts, Maryland should have no problems containing the Jay Hawks’ below -average offense.
“We’re ready to go,” Hadnagy said Wednesday. “It’s been a week off and we’re ready to play.”
Hadnagy, Taylor, Whittle and Stukenberg were named among 25 Tewaaraton finalists for best college lacrosse player in the country. But although Hadnagy and Whittle appreciate the accolades, they give credit to teammates and are focused on bigger goals.
“All of these individual awards are very nice,” Whittle said. “But the same time the season isn’t over and we’re really excited for the opportunity to compete for a Big Ten and national championship.”
Friday’s 6 p.m. Big Ten Tournament game at Maryland Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex is the first time in seven years that the Terps have hosted a conference tournament – though Maryland Women’s Lacrosse hasn’t lost a home game in five years – and the first time for every player on the team. Whittle and Hadnagy said they were excited to play at home and in front of their fans.
“Home field advantage is everything,” Whittle said. “We love our field, we love it here… we’re really exited to have it here and [to] take advantage of having it at home.”
For coach Reese, who recognized that it will be another seven years before Maryland hosts the tournament again, being able to maintain a familiar routine is comforting.
“It’s nice to be home,” she said. “It’s nice to be home in your own house, your own bed, doing things the way that we do them.”