While the No. 3 Maryland women's lacrosse team warmed up Thursday, the Terps aimed to get each other hyped. Coach Cathy Reese's team wanted to come out of the gate with energy as it pursued a Big Ten regular-season title.
The Terps were dominant from the start, enabling them to rush the field at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex. However, minutes after their 20-16 win against Northwestern, the Terps already had a new objective. After securing the title, the team discussed maintaining its momentum for Friday's Big Ten tournament matchup with Johns Hopkins approaching.
Maryland's sole focus before its next matchup is a defining characteristic of Reese-led teams. It helped the Terps win their 13th national championship last season.
"We are on a great track to great things, so just to keep it going, remember what it feels like and keep playing Maryland lacrosse," midfielder Meghan Siverson recalled teammates saying in conversations after the victory.
Since the start of the season, Maryland has prioritized capitalizing when it gains momentum. Reese and the Terps have repeatedly said lacrosse is a game of runs and have stressed that generating momentum is essential to winning close games.
Against the Wildcats, the Terps rallied early, opening the game with four unanswered goals. Maryland's defense fed off the attack's success, not allowing Northwestern to record a shot or goal until about 10 minutes into the game.
"Coming out with a lot of energy helped just propel us in the first half," Siverson said. "Playing all these Big Ten teams that we'll play again just really shows us we need to keep the foot on the pedal and keep going."
Still, Maryland was left looking for offensive output to open the second half. The Wildcats scored five straight to begin the frame before Maryland got on the board. Reese said Northwestern goalkeepers Julie Krupnick and Mallory Weisse provided the Wildcats with a spark each time they made a save.
But once the Terps found their rhythm, they went on a 4-1 run with about 18 minutes remaining. It enabled Maryland to close out its 14th straight win to end the regular season.
"When we were shooting and it hit off the pipe or we turned it over or the goalie made a save, that created momentum for them," Reese said. "So it wasn't necessarily changing a lot on our end, we just needed to execute our game plan and stick to it and do what we had done in the first half in the second."
As the Terps prepare to face the Blue Jays in Ann Arbor, Michigan, they'll look to build off the thrill of winning the conference title. With the NCAA tournament looming, Maryland is only focusing on the weekend ahead.
"Each game we've really focused [on] not getting ahead of ourselves and focusing on that game ahead of us," midfielder Jen Giles said. "We're definitely proud of our efforts today and everything, but we just want to not let that kind of get over our heads and just take it and prepare for the next game that we have ahead of us on Friday."