Maryland women's lacrosse goalkeeper Emily Kift stood firm as Johns Hopkins' Alexis Maffucci's snapshot flew into her stick. Kift distributed the ball, and 25 seconds later, attacker Caroline Steele finished at the other end. Her goal gave the Terps a 5-2 lead with about nine minutes left before halftime.
Kift came up with several crucial saves in place of Megan Taylor, last week's US Lacrosse Magazine National Player of the Week, who missed the game with an injury. Kift had only seen about 16 minutes of game time prior to the match, but the senior played well Sunday, making 10 stops while allowing four goals.
Her performance, paired with Maryland's explosive offense, resulted in a 17-4 win over No. 16 Johns Hopkins at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex.
"Emily did great," coach Cathy Reese said. "She didn't miss a beat, which was really nice to see. And that's a hard position to be in, coming off of Megan's game where she had 18 saves. She's such a stud goalie, and Emily came in and showed what she could do."
More than half of her playing time this season came against Georgetown on Feb. 18, and she allowed five goals in less than 10 minutes of the Terps' 17-13 win. On the Blue Jays' first shot on target Sunday, midfielder Shannon Fitzgerald tied the game at one.
Kift settled down after that goal, though, and stifled the visiting offense throughout the afternoon. The Santa Ana, California, native had 10 stops and a .714 save percentage. Near the end of the first half, Kift made two stops with the Terps (7-0, 1-0) only leading by four. She knocked down the initial shot before keeping the rebound attempt out of the net.
That sequence came with about two minutes left in the first half. Hopkins didn't score again until there were about 10 minutes remaining.
The Maryland defense was also strong in front of Kift, capitalizing on 13 Blue Jays turnovers and allowing just two free position shots, zero of which resulted in goals.
"We like to play a very disciplined and smart defense," Reese said. "We're not going to be swinging, we're not fouling, we're not trying to put people on the eight [meter arc]. We want to take away those opportunities and really challenge ourselves that way."
With Kift anchoring the Maryland defense, Steele led the Terps with foul goals. Attacker Caroline Wannen registered a team-high six points — two goals and four assists — for a unit that had nine players find the back of the net.
Attackers Megan Whittle and Brindi Griffin and midfielders Jen Giles and Zoe Stukenberg all notched two goals. Attackers Kacie Longo and Bairre Reilly as well as midfielder Taylor Hensh added one apiece.
It was a different attacking performance from last season's regular season battle between the two teams, which saw the Terps muster 10 goals against a stingy Blue Jays defense in their two-score win.
"Last year we had trouble getting a lot of good looks," Wannen said. "Today we had a lot of quality looks. It just took us a little while to finish on them. We got a lot of shots off, and it was great once we started to put the ball away."
Reese stressed limiting turnovers leading up to the game, as Maryland gave the ball away 20 times against Syracuse on March 11. On Sunday, they turned the ball over 11 times.
Reese also said the Terps did a solid job preventing "a really-well balanced attack" from finding its rhythm, a big key in their seventh straight victory.
"Any time you can hold a team under five goals, it's a great success defensively," Reese said. "Emily had some great saves in the cage today. That's huge."