In a battle of the Big Ten’s two undefeated titans, one team was bound to leave College Park with its first loss of the season on Saturday night.
When the No. 7 Michigan women’s lacrosse team (3-1 Big Ten, 13-0 overall) left town, Maryland stood alone atop the conference. The Wolverines fell 14-3 to the second-ranked Terrapins (4-0, 14-0), dropping their first game of the season and snapping a 15-game winning streak dating back to last year’s campaign.
Sophomore midfielder Maggie Kane rifled a shot from the left side of the net to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead 33 seconds in, and for 10 minutes it appeared that Hannah Nielsen’s squad was on its way to a potential upset, routinely disrupting Maryland’s offensive rhythm early while senior goalie Mira Shane made a series of saves up close.
Just five minutes later, though, Michigan found itself in a 3-1 hole after the Terrapins tacked on three goals in five minutes. After a media timeout, the scoring blitz only continued, as Maryland found the back of the net five more times in the next two minutes and thirty seconds, dashing the Wolverines’ hopes of continuing their 13-game winning streak.
“We were starved of the ball a bit,” Nielsen said. “(We) couldn’t win too many draw controls tonight. We were playing a little bit sensitive and playing on our heels a little bit.”
The Terrapins’ scoring run was keyed by Michigan penalties. With the game still in reach, the Wolverines committed two fouls and picked up a yellow card to give Maryland three free position opportunities. While the Terrapins only converted one of these chances, they retained possession in their zone and convert twice on easy scoring tries en route to an 8-1 halftime edge.
The Michigan offense also struggled to take care of the ball, failing to get a shot attempt for over five minutes during Maryland’s lengthy scoring run. As the game wore on, it began to appear as if the Wolverines were not prepared for its road tilt against one of the nation’s biggest powerhouses. While they have answered many challenges on its way to a 13-0 start, this one proved too daunting.
“(Maryland is) a very skilled team top to bottom, and we knew we had to come in here and play our very best to beat them,” Nielsen said. “The effort was there and we fought hard till the end but we didn’t make the most of our opportunities.”
In the second half, the Wolverines played with a different type of fire, gaining more offensive opportunities. Molly Garrett answered a Maryland snipe with a goal of her own to cut the lead to 9-2, but that would be as close as Michigan would get for the rest of the contest. It had two free position chances early in the second half, but were unable to convert and chip away at the Terrapins’ lead.
“We needed to bury them,” Nielsen said, “but we’ll go back to work, get a little better on them, and hopefully we’ll improve for our next game.”
While Nadine Stewart netted a goal to cut the score to 12-3, it proved to be too little too late, as Maryland coasted until the final whistle with a 14-3 victory and sole possession of the Big Ten’s top spot.
“No one wants to lose,” Nielsen said. “This one’s gonna sting for the next 24, 48 hours, but we’ll watch the film, see how we can improve and put it to work this Saturday against Rutgers.”