Defense Quietly Shining for #1 Terps

April 5, 2013

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - By: Liz Vlk - Athletic Media Relations Assistant

It is hard to take your eye off the No. 1 Maryland women's lacrosse team's stellar attack, but what is often overlooked is the talent housed on the other end of the field.

As the old saying goes, offense wins games, but defense wins championships.

The defensive unit - led by seniors Kasey Howard, Iliana Sanza, and Melissa Diepold - has played an integral role in propelling Maryland past each of its competitors this year.

"I think we are really good communicators and that is our strongest quality as a defensive unit," says Howard. "We help each other when we make mistakes, and we hold each other accountable."

Having a perfect record at 13-0 this season does not come easy for a team playing in the ACC, and Maryland's talent on the defensive end is a large part of this success. So far this season, Maryland tallies more ground balls, draw controls and forced turnovers compared to their opponents. They also boast an incredible 88% clear percentage, giving the offense many opportunities to score.

"We face a quick, seamless style of play every day in practice when we face our offense," says Howard. "Practicing against the best attack in the nation is why we perform so well against opponents, and it is particularly helpful for me as a goalie because their shots are comparable to the top shooters in the nation."

Due to her impressive play in the cage, Howard received ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors (2/19) after an 11-save game against then-No. 2 ranked Syracuse.

Although practicing against such talent is a large reason for this unit's accomplishments, many of the defensive players also account their success to team chemistry.

"We are all really good friends off of the field, and I think that improved our game tremendously," says Howard. "We have great chemistry, and unlike stick skills, that can not be taught."

Each member of the defense is quick to point the finger when it comes to success, always shining on their teammates.

"It is incredibly special to be playing with people who are just as good, if not better than I am," says Diepold. "It is impossible to be successful as a defensive unit if everyone doesn't work together, and we are lucky enough to have such great talent all on one team."

Diepold and Howard agree that this year's defensive success is largely due to individual talent meshing flawlessly to create one solid unit. Each team member pulls their own weight, and they all add different dynamics creating a defense that is extremely hard to crack.

"My teammates work really hard," says Diepold. "We aren't complacent, we are trying to get better every day. We all build off of each other, and without every person's effort and talent we would not be as successful as we are."

As the season comes down its final stretch, Maryland hopes the wins keep coming but are careful to take the season game-by-game. Although the offense scores goals, the defense is the group who gives them this opportunity.

As the Terps prepare for one of their toughest challenges of the season against North Carolina on Saturday, the defense is focused on one thing: starting their offense.

"Clearing the ball and causing turnovers are two things I think we do really well," says Diepold. "Our defense starts our offense, and our goal as a unit is giving our offense one chance, one opportunity. That has been our motto this season. One chance, one opportunity is all you need to come out on top."