If there was any doubt about Maryland (10-0, 1-0) as the consensus preseason choice to win the Big Ten, the top-ranked Terps showed why on Thursday evening in Evanston as they cruised to a 16-5 victory over No. 4 Northwestern (5-3, 0-1).
In the inaugural Big Ten women's lacrosse game, two of the most storied programs were pitted against each other in a much-anticipated matchup that failed to live up to the hype. The Terrapins clinically took down the Wildcats. While this new regular season rivalry should produce some great matchups in the future, today's rendition was not such a match.
Maryland's experience proved too much for the young Wildcats and after winning the opening draw control, Maryland's top scorer Taylor Cummings opened the scoring for the Terrapins after only 12 seconds. That set the pattern for the rest of the game: Maryland winning the draws, controlling the ball for long periods of time, and, quite often, scoring.
Northwestern's standout freshman, Selena Lasota, tied it at one for the Wildcats a few minutes later on a nice pick play, but then Maryland started asserting their dominance. After scoring back-to-back goals, Northwestern got back to within one after Sheila Nesselbush was able to fake right and finish left to make it 3-2 with 13:27 to play in the first half. But then the Terrapins took over, scoring four goals in only 1:42 of game time, which was part of a 6-0 run to end the half.
A crushing turn of events awaited Northwestern, who were wearing their new gothic jerseys, coming out of the break: Shelby Fredericks opened the second-half scoring for the Wildcats after two minutes, but the Maryland bench called for a stick check and Frederick's stick was ruled ineligible, the pocket being too deep. Despite protests from coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, the goal was disallowed. Any sequence like that would be disheartening, but then Maryland scored 30 seconds later, effectively ending any hope the Wildcats had of a comeback.
Lasota was mostly kept quiet by a stout and experienced Terrapin defense. Any time she tried a run at goal, she was met by multiple defenders who stayed between her and the goal. She did finish with three goals, but surely hoped for a better team outcome.
One name that was not called often was senior Kara Mupo, who, after a big five goal game against Syracuse on Sunday, would have hoped for a better performance against the No. 1 team in the country. She finished with one late goal in garbage time.
The Maryland experience proved too much for the young Wildcats to overcome. The Terrapins displayed patience on offense and discipline on defense en route to this fairly straight-forward victory. Maryland demonstrated what their young opponents could potentially become, but there is work to do. The Wildcats surely eagerly await a potential rematch in May, when the stakes are much, much larger in the Big Ten Tournament and then the NCAA Tournament.
Megan Whittle led the Terrapins scoring with 5 goals. Kelly McPartland had three goals and standout Taylor Cummings had two goals and three assists.
Northwestern is back in action at home on Sunday against No. 10 Louisville.