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Maryland wins its 14th women's lacrosse national championship by beating Boston College, 16-13

Maybe the biggest strength of the Maryland’s women’s lacrosse team is that the Terps don’t get rattled and don’t talk a lot about their winning tradition.

If that weren't the case, they might have lost in the 2017 NCAA Division I lacrosse championship game Sunday at Gillette Stadium. Instead, Maryland scored three big goals in a five-minute span late in the second half to pull out a 16-13 win over Boston College to earn its third national championship in four years.

The Terps (23-0) had trouble putting away a pesky and stubborn Eagles squad (17-7), which twice came within a goal after five- and four-goal deficits. But Maryland wasn’t going to be denied.

And it had nothing to do with pride or seeking redemption after last year’s 13-7 loss to North Carolina in the title game.

“This is the first time I have been in this situation, but we have players who have been here for three or four years, so this was nothing unusual for them,” Maryland freshman midfielder Kali Hartshorn said. “To be honest with you, we didn’t talk about last year, we don’t talk about the past. The past is gone and we only talk about the future. And the future was today.”

It sounds strange especially for team that has won 14 national titles,  including 13 NCAA championships. But as Boston College kept an estimated crowd of 11,668 -- an NCAA women's record -- in suspense, the Terps stayed poised and composed.

Then in crunch time they delivered. Hartshorn scored from in front of the crease to give Maryland a 14-11 lead with 8:40 left in the game. Caroline Steele, a sophomore from Severna Park who attended Severn, scored from her attack position to complete a fast break with 5:55 remaining, then junior Taylor Hensh, a Marriotts Ridge alumnus from Woodstock, put a high, hard shot into the left corner of the net to basically finish off Boston College nearly two minutes later as Maryland went ahead 16-11.

Then it was time to talk about the dream.

 “It’s funny, Zoe [Stukenberg, a star midfielder] turns around at the end,” Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. “The game is over and she says, 'Wait, we didn’t lose? Did we just go undefeated this year?' So, they were oblivious to it. We were trying to go after this season and trying to be the best that would could this season. So, we don’t really talk about the past. That’s the way we roll.”

Maryland had every reason to get nervous Sunday. The Eagles face-guarded and neutralized Stukenberg, a Marriotts Ridge graduate from Ellicott City who still managed three assists, and the Terps connected on only five of 21 shots in the first half. Combined with Boston College goalie Zoe Ochoa who had six saves, the Terps went the last 16:11 of the half without a goal.

But Maryland didn’t panic. It remained balanced and relentless on offense. With Stukenberg limited in the offense, Steele finished with six goals, which tied an NCAA record for a championship game.

The Terps got three from Hensh and two each from Hartshorn, attacker Megan Whittle, a McDonogh alum from Glenwood, and midfielder Jen Giles, a Mount Hebron grad from Ellicott City. A lot of Maryland’s second-half damage came in the first six minutes as the Terps scored five straight goals against goalie Lauren Daly, who replaced Ochoa at halftime.

Boston College coach Acacia Walker said she has rotated goalies after the first half throughout the year. This time it turned out to be a mistake. Walker, a Maryland alumnus from Annapolis, reinserted Ochoa after Giles’ goal off a free position shot put Maryland ahead 10-5 with 25:34 left in the half.

“It is hard, because she is a senior, a leader and was so hot,” Walker said. “But we had had a game plan all year that we switch no matter what because both of our goalies offer so many different assets. Then we’re quick to evaluate if that switch is a bad move. Lauren has been phenomenal all year in the second half, so her going in there is not a scary thing. It builds confidence. I don’t have any regrets about that. She had a couple of tough plays and the defense wasn’t helping her. I just put Zoe back in.”

Regardless of the goalie situation Boston College didn’t give up. The Eagles had perhaps the best player on the field Sunday in junior midfielder Kenzie Kent, who finished with five goals and five assists,  which tied a championship game record for points. Kent had only one goal and two assists in the first half, but she dominated the second,  and her last goal brought the Eagles within 13-11 with 9:31 left.

Then Maryland went on its last run, which finished off Boston College.

“Maryland is amazing. They’re amazing,” Walker said. “Their coaches are amazing. Their players are some of the best. So you have to be excellent. You have to be at your best. Taking down Maryland is like taking down the dragon.”

It’s only going to get better for the Terps. They'll lose 10 seniors, but their freshman class was generally regarded as the best in the country.

But as of late Sunday afternoon, the Terps didn’t want to talk about the past or the future. They were eager to celebrate.

“It’s really an unbelievable feeling,” Steele said. “We worked so hard this season and finally put it all together. Today was a team effort as it always is. Yeah, I mean, it always is.”

mike.preston@baltsun.com

 twitter.com/MikePrestonSun

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