CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - It's awfully early in the season, but part of Maryland's women's lacrosse turnaround is already complete.
With last night's 11-8 victory over No. 8 Virginia at Klockner Stadium, the No. 3 Terrapins capped a surprising unbeaten run through the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season after finishing 0-3 last year. The Terps, who got five goals from Kelly Coppedge, scored the game's first three goals, stalled the Cavaliers' fast break and built a five-goal lead late in the second half.
This came just a year after the Terps struggled to an 11-10 season that ended with a loss to Cornell in the NCAA quarterfinals, Maryland's earliest tournament exit since 1989. Before that, the Terps had claimed seven straight NCAA crowns, the third-longest title streak in any sport in women's NCAA Division I history.
This season, a little of that old Terps magic appears to be back, as Maryland improved to 5-0 and sewed up the top seed in the ACC tournament, set for April 18-20 in Charlottesville.
"This is a huge turnaround from last year," said Terps senior Sonia Judd. "It definitely means a lot to us. It elevates our confidence as a team. For every player on the team, it's very special to come out and be 3-0 in the ACC."
The Terps, who already had beaten No. 9 North Carolina, 10-8, and No. 5 Duke, 9-8, in overtime, took advantage of 20 Cavaliers turnovers - 14 of them offensive turnovers. Maryland's defense, anchored by Greta Sommers, Julie Shank and Laura Warren, caused 18 of Virginia's turnovers.
"I felt like there was an extra person out there on defense today," said Maryland goalie Alexis Venechanos. "Everyone was in the right spot at the right time. We trust each other a lot and that shows a lot on the scoreboard."
Venechanos had another strong outing with 10 saves, including a couple of point-blank stops in the first half that allowed the Terps to keep their distance from the Cavaliers. Virginia rallied within a goal of the Terps twice in the first half, but never did catch up.
Coppedge scored twice and Brook Richards once as the Terps ran up a 3-0 lead. The Cavaliers came within 4-3 on Amy Appelt's goal with 1:01 left in the first half, but the Terps got a free-position goal from Jessica Dorney with 18 seconds left and goals from Coppedge and Sommers in the first 3:36 of the second half.
"We just tried to work on everybody getting quick passes, quick touch on the ball and see if we could throw off their defense," said Coppedge, who has 18 goals this season. "We look for those quick passes, draw the double [team], back it out and look for the cut indoors."
The Terps built their lead to 9-4 on Dorney's spin move with 20:31 left before Lauren Aumiller scored back-to-back free-position goals to cut the lead to 9-6 with 12:33 left.
Virginia won the next draw but turned the ball over in its offensive end, and Terps freshman Delia Cox converted for a 10-6 edge. Coppedge sealed the victory on a feed from Dorney off yet another Cavaliers turnover with 8:44 left.
Of the 10 draws the Cavaliers (3-2, 0-1 ACC) won, they quickly turned over six of them.
"We need to work on our midfield transition," said Cavaliers defender Tiffany Schummer. "They were putting pressure on us and we weren't finishing our plays. We'd come up with the ball and then we'd turn it over."
Maryland 5 6 - 11
Virginia 3 5 - 8
Goals: M-Coppedge 5, Dorney 3, Cox, Sommers, Richards; V-Aumiller 3, Chasney 2, Banks 2, Appelt. Assists: M-Walker 3, Collins 2, Judd, Dorney, Richards; V-Banks, Connors, Chasney. Saves: M-Venechanos 10; V-Pfeiffer 12.