The last time the Maryland women's lacrosse team played Penn State, the game got off to a slow start, with both teams scoring only a combined eight goals before the half.
In their matchup in the Big Ten tournament championship Sunday, the two teams once again took a while to find a rhythm. But with the game tied 3-3 about midway through the first half, attacker Megan Whittle scored back-to-back goals, the start of a five-goal run for the Terps and the second and third of Whittle's career-high eight goals.
Whittle's dominant performance allowed the Terps to hold an 11-4 lead at halftime rather than the slim 5-3 advantage they held at intermission in the previous matchup. Maryland cruised to a 21-12 victory over the Nittany Lions, securing its third consecutive Big Ten tournament championship.
"Megan obviously always plays a very vital role in the offensive game," defender Lizzie Colson said. "She was really on her game today, and she just pushed everyone to work harder and take smart shots. Her drive and her want to win just kind of rubs off on everyone, and she works so hard."
Penn State opened the second half on a 3-1 run that cut Maryland's lead to 12-7, but Whittle and the Terps quickly regained their footing. The senior scored Maryland's first four goals of the second half, including a personal 3-0 run to give the Terps an eight-goal advantage.
Whittle is now one score away from tying Gail Cummings' 289 career goals for second place in NCAA history.
The 21 goals matches Maryland's season-high. The team scored 21 of its 33 shots on goal and forced Penn State to switch goalies twice during the game. Six Terps had multiple goals in the championship game, with attacker Kali Hartshorn notching a hat trick and a career-best 16 draw controls.
Hartshorn, along with attacker Caroline Steele and defenders Julia Braig and Colson made the All-Big Ten tournament team, while Whittle was named tournament MVP.
"Individual awards and all that are great, but I think the special thing is the fact that we've won the regular season championship and the conference championship," coach Cathy Reese said. "You could have chosen anyone from our team to be on the all-tournament team coming out after our fully complete game today and I think any of our players there would say that."
Seedings for the NCAA women's lacrosse tournament will be announced later Sunday, with Maryland hoping to earn a No. 1-seed for the sixth consecutive year. Maryland entered the weekend ranked No. 3 in the country, but No. 2 Boston College lost in the ACC tournament and No. 1 Stony Brook played a much weaker schedule than the Terps.
"At the end of the day the committee has a tough job," Reese said. "We've put ourselves in a really good position going into tonight, I hate that we have to wait until 9:30, but that is what it is. … It doesn't matter who you play, it matters how we play and what we do when we show up."