Small in stature but immense in goal, Taylor keeps a steady tune for Terps
Maryland sophomore Megan Taylor appears to be the least intimidating goalie in Division I women’s lacrosse. Standing 5 feet 3 in her cleats, she is not only the smallest player on the Terrapins’ roster, she also doesn’t use much strategy to compensate for her lack of height. Most goalies will make themselves as large as possible to take away angles in the net; Taylor just kind of wings it.
Other goalies might smear eye black all over their face to resemble war paint, clank the posts with their stick to pump themselves up, scream directives at teammates. Taylor is at her best when she sings playful songs during the game. Her favorite is Pharrell Williams’s “Happy.”
She doesn’t play well when she grips her stick too tight. As Taylor turned in one of the best performances of her career in last Sunday’s Big Ten championship win over Northwestern, allowing just six goals and registering 16 saves to help No. 1 Maryland lock up the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament, she looked as if she had found her happy place.
“I tap my foot. I do a little waddle. I don’t pull out a dance. I just like to be loose. It’s funny, because I’m not intimidating, I don’t think,” said Taylor, who will begin her second NCAA tournament on Sunday when the Terrapins host High Point (16-3). “A big thing with me is, if I don’t make a save or if I do make a save, the biggest save is going to be the next save. No matter what happens, the next save is your biggest save . . . . I don’t ever get worked up if a goal goes in.”
Maryland (19-0) is once again the favorite to win its 14th national championship this month, and the continued development of Taylor is a major reason. She repeated as Big Ten goalie of the year this month and enters the NCAA tournament with a .549 save percentage, which ranks second nationally. She is also 15th in the country with a 9.18 goals against average and is registering 10.0 saves per game.
None of that production is necessarily surprising to Taylor or her teammates, but to those outside the program, it’s hard to imagine such a free spirit dominating a position that is often times reserved for intense personalities.
“She’s not intimidating at all. She’s the most upbeat, bubbly. She laughs at everything. You could hit her, and she’ll just laugh about it,” said defender Nadine Hadnagy, who along with fellow senior Zoe Stukenberg is a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award given to the nation’s top player. “She’s always uplifting. Her energy definitely flows through our entire defense.”
Taylor has been a cornerstone of Maryland’s starting lineup since she arrived on campus in the fall of 2015 after a decorated career at Glenelg High in Howard County, where her passion for goalkeeping was first forged with her older brother, Alex, who pelted her with tennis balls in the backyard of their home.
He would develop himself into a starting goalie at Division III powerhouse Salisbury, but he never stopped working with Megan. Alex, 25, lives in Arlington and commutes at least once a week to work with Megan. That included before last weekend’s Big Ten tournament. But after watching his sister struggle in a 19-16 semifinal win over Johns Hopkins, he didn’t need to say much to her in the form of encouragement before the championship game against Northwestern.
“Just the way she keeps her calm during the game, it’s a completely different personality than what all other goalies have,” Alex Taylor said of his younger sister. “She’s completely focused throughout the game. But to be able to be completely focused and have that personality where everyone just wants to gravitate around her and be her friend, that’s a rare breed.”
Megan Taylor has started all but one game over the past two seasons. She has lost just once in those 41 starts: a crushing 13-7 setback against North Carolina in the national championship game last May. Maryland’s defense wasn’t expected to be as productive as it has been this season; the back line lost three starters, including two U.S. national team members, and has been a work in progress. The unit mobbed Taylor after her masterpiece last Sunday against Northwestern, where she finished with a .727 save percentage. It was a resilient performance given what had happened two nights earlier, but Taylor didn’t need to alter her style.
“I just play,” Taylor said. “I just go out there, and I don’t think too much about it.”
Sophomore goalie Megan Taylor, all of 5 feet 3, sports a 40-1 record in her two seasons in College Park.