When the Maryland women's lacrosse team faced Penn State on April 20, it endured one of its toughest challenges of the season, beating the Nittany Lions by just two goals.
But during a rematch in the NCAA tournament semifinal on Friday, the Terps dominated.
After Maryland scored six goals in the opening half of their April battle with the Nittany Lions, it took a six-goal lead into the second half at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
In its ninth-consecutive final four appearance, No. 1 seed Maryland finished off No. 4 seed Penn State, 20-10, to advance to its fifth-straight title game appearance.
"We were fired up and prepared," coach Cathy Reese said. "We executed our game plan very well, so we're looking forward to getting to continue our season for a couple more days."
The contest got off to an inauspicious start for the Terps, who won the opening draw but threw the ball away to give the Nittany Lions possession. Attacker Maria Auth scored from a free position to give Penn State a 1-0 lead after just over two minutes.
However, the Terps (22-0) executed two separate runs, one 4-0 and the other 3-0, to jump out to a 7-3 lead. They were bolstered by winning the first seven draws against Penn State (17-4) attacker Madison Carter, who is ninth in the nation in draw controls per game.
Midfielder Kali Hartshorn felt the Terps underperformed on draws against the Nittany Lions in April, and took it upon herself to improve that aspect on Friday.
"They got the ball all the time," Penn State coach Missy Doherty said. "When we got the ball down there, there weren't many times where we weren't successful…the swing of the game was just getting the ball."
Six different Terps scored in the first half, capped by attacker Caroline Steele finding Hartshorn driving to goal. Hartshorn beat Penn State goalkeeper Cat Rainone to her left to help the Terps enter the break with an 11-5 advantage.
In that first half, the Terps limited Big Ten Attacker of the Year, Steph Lazo, to zero points. She didn't register a shot until nine minutes into the second half, and that was stonewalled at point blank range by goalkeeper Megan Taylor. Lazo didn't get a point until she notched an assist 11 minutes into the second half and finished with just two points.
Carter, who scored six against the Terps in April, managed just one goal.
The second half belonged to Terps midfielder Jen Giles. After slowly returning from an injury suffered in the regular-season finale at Northwestern on April 27, she was back to her dynamic best, scoring or assisting the opening four goals for the Terps in the frame.
"Finally getting back into it, it was just great to get back with everybody and it took some time, I guess, to get going," Giles said. "I didn't want to take any moment for granted."
Giles relentlessly drove through traffic, often fighting off contact, and scored on all four shots she took. The midfielder finished with four goals and four assists for a career-high eight points.
The sophomore's previous best was six points, set in February against then-No.1 North Carolina.
Midfielder Zoe Stukenberg called Giles a "big game player," while joking with her for being too modest about her performance.
"Jen is someone that, when the pressure is on, I know she's going to perform," Stukenberg said. "It's like she relishes the pressure."
Giles, Hartshorn and attacker Taylor Hensh led the way with four goals apiece while attacker Megan Whittle and Stukenberg chipped in with hat tricks. On the other end, Taylor made 10 saves, rebounding from a poor outing against Stony Brook in the quarterfinal on Saturday.
With the victory, Maryland remains unbeaten. The Terps will fight for their third national championship in four years on Sunday against Boston College.
"We will do our best to kind of celebrate this and celebrate what we accomplished today," Stukenberg said. "What we did as a team was awesome, but we still have a task at hand and we need to stay focused."