Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Senior leadership proves paramount once again, leading No. 1 Maryland to program’s 14th National Championship

Immediately after the final whistle, the Terps beelined towards senior goalie Megan Taylor, dropping their sticks and gleaming with excitement. The players and the coaching staff embraced, having completed a journey that placed them back on top of the women’s college lacrosse world. Finishing 22-1, they were champions once again.

“Really proud of my senior class, as we leaned on them their leadership has been phenomenal,” head coach Cathy Reese said. “Today we saw it in full force.”

9,433 screaming and passionate fans packed Homewood Field in Baltimore on Sunday and were treated to a back and forth battle between two outstanding teams. Capping off their tremendous four years in College Park, the seniors guided Maryland when it mattered most to the nail biting 12-10 victory. Megan Taylor, awarded the tournament’s most outstanding player, had 10 saves, while Jen Giles and Caroline Steele each contributed two goals.

In addition to the senior leadership, Maryland’s defense was disciplined and fundamentally sound throughout. Boston College has two Tewaaraton Award Finalists and several complementary weapons. Despite the challenge, the Terps stuck to their game with brilliant communication and solid fundamentals. Each of the Terps defenders and midfielders did their job working as a unit, making it difficult for Boston College to navigate open opportunities.

“The best part [on defense], was our doubles got where they needed to be, our slides got where they needed to be. Our defense was able to start our offense,” Reese said. “Give our staff credit and the players credit for believing, buying in and executing play in and play out.”

After losing to Northwestern in the Big Ten Championship three weeks ago, the Terps hit the reset button and made some adjustments moving forward. Today, Maryland showcased these adjustments to perfection putting together a complete performance on both ends of the field.

“I think one of the most fun things these past few weeks, has been celebrating each other,” Steele said. “We wanted to keep attacking, attacking was our mentality all over the field,” Giles said.

Scoring the first goal each of the previous two games, Maryland was hoping to continue the same trend on championship Sunday. Caroline Steele did exactly that, followed up by an electric celebration. On a feed from Erica Evans that sent the majority Terps crowd into a frenzy, Maryland had an early lead. Evans displayed a quick burst up field on the fastbreak and fed Steele for the low-to-low finish.

With several high-powered offensive weapons, the Eagles bounced back, Cara Urbank tied up the score dodging down the alley. Soon after, Kenzie Kent gave Boston College the lead spinning around her defender and scoring on the doorstep, the Eagles only lead of the game.

After Steele’s second goal, Maryland began to start building separation, orchestrating a 3-0 run and a 5-2 lead, one they would never relinquish again. Kali Hartshorn dodged down the right alley with aggression and used her physicality to beat her defender, followed by a goal from Grace Griffin.

Griffin caught Steele’s feed in the slot and buried the shot home. To cap off the run, Griffin scored once again cutting into the open area after Hannah Warther drew the double team. Griffin did an outstanding job of displaying her lacrosse IQ cutting behind the slide and waiting for the patient finish.

After Sam Apuzzo scored her first goal of the game, firing the sidearm shot into the back of the net, Brindi Griffin took over. Griffin scored three consecutive goals, catapulting Maryland’s lead each scored in a different fashion. Her first goal, Griffin displayed her elite dodging ability and precise footwork wrapping around the cage for the finish. Her next two goals, Griffin displayed her precision shooting with a top shelf free position shot and a leaping shot on the feed from Catie May.

Apuzzo scored once more before halftime, but the Terps defense closed the door on several Eagles opportunities including forcing a shot clock violation in the final two minutes. Maryland’s suffocating defense, effective communication and sliding made it difficult for Boston College.

In their third consecutive national championship, Boston College continued to fight and would not go down easily. Kenzie Kent, who scored five goals on the day, executed a quick give and go with Apuzzo to perfection cutting the Maryland lead to three. Sensing an Eagle comeback, Maryland turned it on once again scoring consecutive goals to retake a five-goal lead. Hartshorn scored her second goal of the game, cutting behind the slide followed by Grace Griffin who took her defender down the alley for the impressive lefty finish.

Watching Maryland orchestrate a run, the Eagles put together one of their own with back-to-back goals from Kent and Dempsey Arsenault. Knowing the offensive firepower of Boston College, Maryland’s seniors would need to step up one more time. Giles, a team captain who has been phenomenal all season, continued to display her leadership scoring two of the next three goals to put Maryland on top 12-8. Neither goal was easy, Giles dodged hard with confidence despite Eagle defenders draped all over her.

Continuing to make it interesting, Boston College scored two goals within the last five minutes to cut it to a 12-10 game. However, when Maryland needed another stop their defense delivered with Meghan Doherty drawing a charging call on Kent. For the 23rd and final time, the Terps executed the clear to perfection and ran out the clock cementing their status as 2019 National Champions.

Surrounded by their teammates, alumni and fans, the Terps celebrated another championship the second for the seniors in their time in College Park. Whether you were a starter, or a bench player the jubilation and love that the Terps have for each other was palpable in the air. Although it was not easy, the Terps once again proved why they are the best team in the country and are the gold standard in women’s college lacrosse.

“This day and this feeling as a whole is one you cannot put into words,” Steele said.

“I feel like I’m in a dream, I’m just so happy,” Taylor said.