After losing Megan Whittle and Taylor Hensh — and their combined 119 goals from last season — the Maryland women’s lacrosse team entered Saturday’s season opener against George Mason with questions about where the offense would come from.
After going down 1-0 in the opening minutes, the Terps delivered an emphatic answer.
Maryland recovered from some early hiccups against the Patriots’ zone defense to orchestrate a ruthless offensive showing, taking 41 shots in the 16-5 blowout win.
“We want to be a team that has a really well-balanced attack,” coach Cathy Reese said. “Any of the people that are on the field for me have the ability to score.”
George Mason’s zone initially prevented Maryland’s high-octane offense from igniting. The Terps missed an open shot, turned the ball over, regained it, and then turned it over again.
But after the Patriots opened the scoring, Maryland’s offense started to show signs of life. Off a turnover, forward Kali Hartshorn was wide open down the middle of the field. Defender Shelby Mercer provided a perfect pass, and Hartshorn calmly a finished one-on-one.
It was the start of a three-goal burst in five minutes, which kicked off the barrage. Attacker Jen Giles netted a career-high five goals and two other Terps also provided hat tricks.
The scores came in a variety of ways. Facing a zone defense, Maryland moved the ball around the arc, creating numerous opportunities.
And they created plenty of openings in the George Mason defense. Five Terps contributed at least one assist. Maryland remained patient inside the Patriots’ territory, wearing down their thinly stretched defense. As a result, seven different players scored.
The quickness of Maryland’s attack tired out George Mason. That led to a loss of discipline and 24 fouls, 10 resulting in free position shots.
Giles and other offensive players had easy opportunities to settle into the game, and they converted 50 percent of their free position chances, good for five goals. Giles’ first three tallies were from free position situations.
“Jen did a good job finishing her eight-meters, so you like to see that,” Reese said. “We were put on the eight-meter quite often today.”
Before the game, Reese stressed the importance of her quick-fire offense avoiding turnovers despite its frenetic ball movement. Maryland committed only six giveaways Saturday.
“When we did turn it over,” Reese said, “our players worked really hard to get the ball back.”
When the ball was up for grabs, Maryland out-hustled George Mason. Attacker Caroline Steele and Giles combined for four ground balls, with Steele in particular capitalizing on the offensive end.
Despite the scoreline, Reese wasn’t entirely satisfied with the performance, citing Maryland’s inefficiency. The Terps shot 39 percent overall and 50 percent from free shots.
“I would have liked to have shot a little bit better,” Reese said. “I want to be over 50 percent, and we weren’t there today.”
Prior to the game, Steele was optimistic about the offense, despite the offseason turnover. In her fourth year at College Park, she’s no stranger to key departures, from Taylor Cummings to Zoe Stukenberg to Whittle.
On Saturday, it looked like Steele was right.
“We were working on moving the ball quickly, finding openings, and just being patient with the ball,” Giles said.