On May 5, the Maryland women's lacrosse team fell to Northwestern, 16-11, in the Big Ten tournament championship, its first loss of the season and second-ever Big Ten loss.
Now, the Terps have a chance to avenge their loss against the Wildcats in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. Maryland (20-1, No. 3 in the nation) and Northwestern (16-4, No. 4) will face off at John Hopkins University's Homewood Field, which also hosted the Big Ten tournament, at 7:30 p.m. May 24.
It's Maryland's 11th straight trip to the Final Four. The Terps defeated Stony Brook and Denver in College Park, Md., to reach the semifinals. Senior attacker Caroline Steele, who totaled 10 goals during the two wins, believes the loss to Northwestern in the Big Ten title game refocused Maryland ahead of the NCAA Tournament.
"It definitely did. Obviously, we never want to lose, but that game really did expose some flaws and got us back to the drawing board," Steele said on
Glenn Clark Radio
May 20. "I think we've made a lot of adjustments, focused on a lot of things. We rewatched that game plenty of times, so we've all seen what happened. I really just think that we refocused and we're back on it."
Steele, a Severna Park, Md., native, was a two-time
Baltimore Sun first-team All-Metro honoree during her time at Severn School. She's scored 49 goals this season for the Terps and 201 throughout her career. With the Final Four taking place at Homewood Field, Steele will have a chance to try to win her second national championship in front of family and friends.
"My entire family's already like, 'Don't worry about tickets for us, we're all going to be in our section,' so I can't wait for that," Steele said. "... I already have goosebumps picturing walking out on Friday night to a full Hopkins stadium. I can't wait."
The Terps have won 13 national championships, with the most recent coming in 2017. Four have come under head coach Cathy Reese. This year, Maryland has outscored opponents, 336-163. The Terps are led by a highly decorated senior class that has won 85 games the past four years.
As for why the Terps are so successful year in and year out, Steele said, "I have to go with family and firepower. I really do think every game we go out there and play for the people next to us, and it's something special. You do something special, you might get called out. And I think it is just playing together and just always feeling like you have a family member next to you. Cathy is kind of our mom away from home, so really just playing for each other and it ends up the way we want it to."
Canisius graduate transfer Erica Evans leads the team in goals with 56, with seniors Jen Giles (54) and Steele right behind here. Juniors Kali Hartshorn (44) and Brindi Griffin (35) have been big as well. They'll have to keep up with a Northwestern team that has scored 17.7 goals per game thus far this year. The Wildcats are led by attacker Selena Lasota (82 goals).
Senior goalie Megan Taylor (55.6 save percentage) will be tasked with slowing down Lasota, as will senior defenders Shelby Mercer and Braig.
"I think Shelby is truly one of the best defenders in the game right now, and she does not get a lot of recognition or credit," Steele said. "Week in and week out, her and Julia Braig have the toughest matchups, and that'll probably be Selena Lasota for Northwestern this weekend. Plenty of good people week in and week out this whole season."
If the Terps beat the Wildcats, they'll play the winner of the North Carolina-Boston College semifinal May 26 at Hopkins. No matter how the weekend plays out for the Terps, Steele will have enjoyed the journey this season and throughout her four years.
"... Every single year we kind of take a step back and appreciate it," Steele said. "We're like, 'Man, we're one of four teams, back where we want to be.' It's just so crazy. I wouldn't want it any other way. I'm happy that we're in the spot that we are and get another shot at it."
For more from Steele, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics