Last season, the top-ranked Maryland women's lacrosse team dominated No. 3 Florida, 18-8, in College Park in late March.
The teams entered Saturday's rematch with the same rankings as during that blowout — Maryland No. 1, Florida No. 3 — and though the Gators kept it close on their home field, the Terps were victorious again, winning 16-14 against their first ranked opponent of the 2018 season.
Two quick goals from Florida in the opening minutes showed this would not be a repeat of last season's demolition.
"In those situations it's just super important to try and keep composure and not let anything like that get in your head or get you down," midfielder Jen Giles said. "We try and just move on and the next play is ours."
The Terps responded with three goals of their own, one from attacker Megan Whittle and two from Giles, but they wouldn't go on another 3-0 run until the second half.
The duo starred for Maryland. Giles scored four goals and an assist, while Whittle added five goals on eight shots. Whittle scored three consecutive free-position shots from the top-left corner of the eight meter midway through the second half.
The senior's three quick scores were part of a 5-0 Terps run that put Maryland up 16-9 with 16:37 to play, a significant cushion after never holding more than a three-goal advantage in the first half.
"She was in a certain spot in our man up that was able to draw in near looks and so that was good for her to finish on those opportunities," coach Cathy Reese said. "She wants to be a leader on the field and she's a hard player to stop once she gets going."
The Terps didn't score again, however, and Florida cut into that lead over the rest of the game. Gators attacker Sydney Pirreca's sixth goal of the game made it 16-14 with 1:55 to play, but that was as close as they'd come.
To the dismay of the Gator crowd, many of the Terps' goals came off of fouls and free position shots. Florida had 31 team fouls and seven yellow cards, giving Maryland 11 free position shots, seven of which it converted.
"You've got to make your free position shots," Whittle said. "If teams are going to foul as much as they do we have to take advantage of that and put it in the back of the net."
Florida had eight free position shots, but Terps goalkeeper Megan Taylor stopped five of them and finished with 11 saves altogether.
Still, Maryland struggled in areas they typically lead, allowing the Gators to lead in draw controls and caused turnovers and never forcing a failed clear attempt.
"It was a really, really tough game, long and we had to fight hard, but I'm just very happy with the outcome," Giles said. "It doesn't matter what the score is as long as we're coming out on top. So when it's a close game, we just need to dig deep and keep going."