Maryland Dominates Second Half to Beat Florida
by Alex Maminakis | Twitter
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - In Maryland’s first ever trip to Gainesville, Florida, the No. 1 Terrapins asserted their dominance and proved why they are the nation’s top team.
The first half of Saturday’s game between Maryland and No. 2 Florida went the way most people might have expected – a hard-fought, low scoring, back-and-forth match that ended with the Terrapins on top 4-2 at halftime, Maryland’s lowest-scoring half of the season.
The second half, though, was a different story. Maryland’s relentless offense wore out the Gators’ defense and the Terrapins (6-0) pulled away for a 14-4 victory to remain unbeaten and undisputed as the nation’s No. 1 team.
“This was a huge win for us today, to come down here and play down here, this is a tough place to play and Florida’s a really good team,” Maryland head coach Cathy Reese said. “We knew we had our hands full coming into the game. First half we struggled quite a bit, just needed to kind of settle in…offense just needed to do a better job in the second half, and thankfully they did that.”
Florida opened the second half with a quick goal from Nicole Graziano to get within one of Maryland, 4-3, but the Terrapins answered with eight straight scores over 13 minutes to pull away and seal the victory.
Junior Caroline Wannen led the way for Maryland on offense scoring four goals and notching three assists. Zoe Stukenberg, Megan Whittle, Kacie Longo and Jen Giles each had two goals for the Terrapins as well. Senior Taylor Cummings scored just once but led the team with six draw controls. Her presence on the field was stronger than what the statistics sheet suggested.
Wannen had scored just two goals all season before Saturday’s performance but emerged as the biggest scoring threat in the game against the Gators.
“This was a big game for her, to be able to step up when those other people are drawing a lot of the attention,” Reese said of Wannen. “She found her look, she attacked the cage hard and she’s an excellent shooter. We’ve just been encouraging her to continue to go to goal…so we saw that from her today.”
After a first half that was very defensive on both ends, Maryland’s offense wore down Florida’s defense in the second half by winning in the draw circle. The Terrapins won the draw control battle 15-5 on Saturday, 7-0 in the first half, and the Gators (9-1) simply didn’t get enough offensive possessions in the second half to keep the game close.
Florida’s four goals are its fewest scored in a game this year and the largest previous deficit the Gators had faced this season was four goals against North Carolina. Five of UF’s wins this season had been comeback victories, but the Gators couldn’t muster up enough offense against Maryland and suffered their first loss.
“When you get to play the No. 1 team in the country, they certainly exploit your weaknesses, and they did that,” Florida head coach Amanda O’Leary said. “We have to be better, we have to grow and we’re lucky that we have a lot of lacrosse yet to be played.”
Freshman Lindsey Ronbeck scored two of Florida’s four goals, both in the first half, and Graziano and Sydney Pirreca added the other two. The Gators had only 16 shots to Maryland’s 31 and turned the ball over 11 times. On four of Florida’s eight shots on goal, Maryland goalkeeper Megan Taylor made impressive saves.
“They’re the No. 1 team in the country for a reason,” Graziano said. “I think that it’s good that we lost this game, just in the respect that we have a lot to work on, but it still stings.”
Maryland is riding high after victories over Syracuse and Florida the last two weekends. The top-ranked Terrapins are now 6-0 heading into Wednesday night's game in Philadelphia against Penn. (Rob Foldy photo)
The Terrapins have now won back-to-back games against Syracuse and Florida while the Gators have now dropped just one of their seven games against ranked opponents. Wannen said Maryland has already found its groove just six games into the season – a scary omen to the rest of the teams in the country.
“I think we know that we can get even better at this point,” Wannen said. “We’re not even halfway through the season and we’re already playing great lacrosse. We just want to keep getting better every game, no matter who it is who we’re playing.”
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