With Navy giving the defending national champions about all they could handle, the senior Tewaaraton Award finalist wasn’t ready to see the Terps’ season end short of the final four for the first time in her career.
Whittle, a McDonogh graduate, scored three straight times in the final 11 minutes — tying the game at 14, giving the Terps the lead for good and giving them a small cushion with the game-winner — en route to a 17-15 victory at the Terps’ Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex.
“It’s my senior year and as the Class of 2018, that was our last game on this field and so I think we all were really fired up,” said Whittle, who has 297 career goals, second all-time in Division I. “Navy is a very talented defense. They were going in and out of a zone, a bit of a face-guard, different things and so [it was about] just letting the game come to me. I didn’t want to force anything, but Taylor [Hensh] grabbed my face and said, ‘Start shooting the ball.’ I said, ‘OK,’ so I did.”
As she missed her first seven shots, Whittle didn’t have to worry that the Terps would lack offense. Their first seven goals were scored by a different player and the Terps generated plenty of offense with 37 shots.
That offense, along with a strong game on both sides of the field from Jen Giles (Mount Hebron) and 13 saves from goalie Megan Taylor (Glenelg), propelled the No. 1-seeded Terps (20-1) to the final four for the tenth straight time.
Aiming for their 14th NCAA championship, the Terps will meet fourth-seeded Boston College in a rematch of last year’s national championship Friday in the semifinals at Stony Brook on Long Island, N.Y. The Eagles defeated the Seawolves, who had been ranked No. 1 most of the season, 12-11 in overtime Saturday.
Against Navy (18-3), the Terps trailed for only the second time this season. Just as they rallied from four goals down at the half to beat Princeton last month, they rallied from three goals down with 18:08 remaining to beat the Midshipmen, who reached the final four last season for the first time in program history.
“This is a tough round and it’s tough to make sure we don’t get ahead of ourselves,” Maryland coach Cathy Reese said of the quarterfinals. “When we went up, we kind of took our foot off the gas there toward the end of the first half and then Navy went up and we were playing catchup for a while there. I think the most important piece of this was to stay present and stay in the moment and the only play that mattered was the play that we were in.”
The Mids took the initial lead, 2-0, and after Maryland responded, they scored the final five goals of the first half for a 10-9 lead going into the break. Julia Collins (River Hill) scored six of her eight goals, which tied a Navy single-game record, in the first half. She had two in that five-goal run while her twin sister Jenna, who also has 100 points this season, had a goal and two assists.
In the second half, the Terps face-guarded Julia Collins and stopped her from getting so many looks right on the crease. After Jenna Collins fed Meg O’Donnell to open the second half, Julia Collins rolled the crease and slipped a low shot past Taylor for a 12-10 Navy lead. The teams traded two-goal runs to give Navy a 14-12 lead before Hensh (Marriotts Ridge) started to turn the momentum with a free-position goal.
Giles then pulled the Terps within 14-13 on her fourth goal of the game before Whittle scored her three goals and Hensh added one to complete the six-goal run.
Taylor, who made her 500th career save during the game, stopped three shots to help sustain the run as the Terps shut out Navy for a 16-minute stretch late in the second half.
“Navy’s such a great team. They were going to goal and they went really hard. It just think it was confidence,” said Taylor, who praised her defense and the leadership of Julia Braig (St. Paul’s). “At one point we were like ‘Bring it,’ that type of attitude. ‘If you’re going to take a shot, you’re going to have defense on you. It’s going to have to be a really good shot to score,’ almost a chip on our shoulders. I think that attitude helps.”
Cindy Timchal, who led Maryland to eight national championships before moving to Navy in 2007, had only faced the Terps and Reese, one of her former players, once before, a 19-6 loss in the 2011 NCAA first round. This time they were much closer as Timchal continues to build the Navy program.
“We needed some big defensive stops and they got an 8-meter [free-position goal from Hensh] that kind of changed the flow of the game,” Timchal said. “Knowing Maryland, they were going to respond. We thought we were in position to respond too, but they played it out. … We had our chances, some failed clears and some failed opportunities … and the goalie came up with some big saves at the end, too, which kind of changed some momentum there, too.”
Navy 10 5 — 15
Maryland 9 8 — 17
Goals: N—Ju.Collins 8, O’Sullivan 2, Je.Collins, Larkin, Harris, O’Donnell, Victory; M—Giles 4, Whittle 3, Hensh 3, Hartshorn 3, B.Griffin, Steele, G.Griffin, Sieverson. Assists: N—Je.Collins 4, Childress, Larkin; M—Giles 3, B.Griffin 2, Steele, Whittle. Saves: N—Boyum 10; M—Taylor 13.
NCAA women’s final four
At Stony Brook, N.Y.
Friday, May 25
» No. 1 seed Maryland vs. No. 4 seed Boston College, TBA, ESPN3
» No. 2 seed North Carolina vs. No. 3 seed James Madison, TBA, ESPN3