By the time High Point attacker Emory Gaeng snuck the ball past Maryland women's lacrosse goalkeeper Megan Taylor on Sunday, over 16 minutes had gone by. The Panthers' bench went wild in response to their first goal of the contest, but their celebrations were short lived.
Just 22 seconds later, Terps attacker Kacie Longo put one behind Panthers goalkeeper Jill Rall. Several players on the High Point sideline stopped jumping and yelling, bowing their heads in disappointment.
The sequence put the No. 1 Terps in front, 8-1, and led to their largest margin of victory this season as they advanced to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals.
The Terps limited a High Point attack ranked fourth in the nation in scoring to two first-half tallies while firing 12 of their own. With a 10-goal cushion, the running clock began and the Terps coasted to a 21-6 victory.
"One of the challenges is stepping out on the field and making sure you're looking to put together a full 60 minutes," coach Cathy Reese said. "Overall, a really good team effort and this is what we needed moving forward."
Picking up where they left off in their 14-6 win over Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game last week, the Terps' defense suffocated the Panthers (16-4). Attacker Samantha Brown, who set the program's single-season points record this year, did not get on the scoresheet until she registered an assist with under nine minutes to go.
Maryland defender Nadine Hadnagy, one of five Tewaaraton finalists, put the clamps on Brown from the opening possession. Allowing her no space, the Terps (20-0) forced a 90-second shot clock violation from the Panthers on their opening possession.
Shortly after, midfielder Zoe Stukenberg lifted a pass to attacker Megan Whittle, who flashed the ball past Rall for the contest's first goal. Whittle scored four of Maryland's goals on their 7-0 run to open the game and finished with a team-high five tallies while Stukenberg notched a hat trick and added two assists.
"It started us off and we were able to finish it on the other end," Reese said. "Once we were able to put a few away, we started to settle in offensively, figure out what they were doing on defense and create."
Reese said the team set out to put together a disciplined defensive effort and did just that, allowing six or fewer goals for just the fourth time this season. High Point coach Lyndsey Boswell said adjusting to the Terps' defense was difficult and the early stops took their confidence away.
In the second frame, goalkeeper Emily Kift replaced Taylor. Though Kift allowed the first shot she faced to go in, a defensive stop on the next High Point possession spurred a 3-0 Terps run to solidify their advantage.
Taylor had four saves in the opening 30 minutes while Kift stopped one. That save received an ecstatic reaction from the crowd as she ranged across the cage to keep out a shot from Brown that appeared to be going into a wide open net. Third-string goalie Emma Moss also played.
Along with Whittle and Stukenberg, six other Terps found the back of the net as several backups played with Maryland's large advantage. Longo notched four goals from the bench while attacker Kelsey Cummings and midfielder Hannah Warther also scored.
"It just depends on the day, who's going to finish the most," Whittle said. "All of us had good looks and our bench came on and did really well, which is awesome. Everybody stepped up."
The Terps will look to continue their success against Stony Brook at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex next weekend.
Stukenberg said the team's camaraderie is the source behind its confidence and results.
"This team has been tested, and we really just enjoy each other's company and lacrosse," Stukenberg said. "We're relaxed, happy and having fun, and that's when we play our best."