The Maryland and North Carolina women's lacrosse teams hold similar winning traditions. The Terps have captured three straight Big Ten regular season titles, while the Tar Heels have accomplished the same feat in the ACC.
The powerhouse programs have gone back and forth in their head-to-head matchups over the past two seasons. In the 2016 NCAA championship game, North Carolina avenged a regular-season loss to Maryland with a 13-7 victory. Last year, the Terps edged the Tar Heels, 13-10, en route to its own title run.
Ahead of another meeting on Saturday, the No. 1 Terps are focused on improving their offensive movement to claim their second road victory over a top-10 team in two weeks.
"I love that we're playing such great opponents so early in the season to really test us and see how great we can be and what we can do," attacker Megan Whittle said. "I'm excited for the challenge and I know this week in practice is crucial to get ready for that."
Coach Cathy Reese pushed her team in practice to work on areas where mistakes were made against Florida, when Maryland (2-0) struggled to pull away in its 16-14 win. In particular, she felt her offense could have performed better.
"Our movement was just sort of complacent," Reese said. "We were just kind of standing and watching each other and that's not the dynamic offense that we'd like to run."
So, Reese made attackers and midfielders perform drills to work on keeping their heads up on drives, moving for each other and creating opportunities for better shots on net. The Terps expect that kind of cohesive play to be crucial against No. 8 North Carolina (2-1).
"You can always improve your shooting percentage, you can always improve the looks that you get on cage," Whittle said. "So [we're] just focusing on right here, right now [and] how we can improve every day before the game."
Freshman midfielder Grace Griffin said the unit also focused on finding a balance between playing at the team's signature fast pace and maintaining organization on offense.
It might be difficult to execute what Reese preached to her players against North Carolina given the difficult road environment, especially for a roster that features 11 newcomers. But the coach is confident her group can use the visit to a familiar foe as a bonding experience.
"It's a chance for us to really connect together," Reese said. "Road trips are great for team chemistry because there's no one else to hang out with but each other."