The No. 3 Terrapins rolled to a 6-1 lead and goalie Brittany Dipper's career-high 12-save performance kept them in control en route to a 10-5 upset of No. 1 North Carolina at Ludwig Field for their second straight ACC Tournament title and their seventh in its 14-year history.
Repeat tournament Most Valuable Player Caitlyn McFadden put the Terps on the board 31 seconds into the game and Maryland was up 5-1 in less than 16 minutes as the Notre Dame Prep had two goals and two assists.
After beating No. 4 Virginia in Friday's semifinal with a big second half, Terps coach Cathy Reese said her team wants to shake the moniker of being a second-half team.
"I thought our team wanted to demonstrate what we're capable of," Reese said. "We've had these games this season with these ups and downs. We wanted to come out strong off the whistle and not be known as this team that has these great second halves. ... This team is a great team and we're capable of greatness when we can execute and play excellent lacrosse for 60 minutes."
In addition to the fast start, the Terps (15-1) held Carolina (14-2) to its lowest scoring output of the season thanks to Dipper and an equally tough field defense.
Defender Brittany Poist, a North Carroll graduate, said that in avenging a 13-9 loss to the Tar Heels two weeks ago -- as well as an 8-7 loss in the NCAA semifinals last May -- there was no letdown this time.
"We're stepping up as one-v-one defenders and taking responsibility for our individual roles," Poist said, "but we're also recognizing that in order to be a good defense you have to be a unit. So when someone else helps, you all have to help together and there's no time when one defender is left out to dry. You're all working together."
Dipper made a big stand late in the last 10 minutes of he first half, stopping three free-position shots, including two from Carolina's leading scorer Corey Donohoe.
The Tar Heels came out strong in the second half with goals from Kristen Taylor and Donohoe to pull within 6-3, but Laura Merrifield answered and then Karri Ellen Johnson fed Sarah Mollison for an 8-3 lead wth 18:07 to go. Dipper also made four saves in the final four minutes.
"I thought she played a really nice game today and was a big piece of their success in the second half," Tar Heels coach Jenny Levy said of the Terps goalie. "I also thought their defense did a nice job, hurrying our shots and getting into shooting lanes. My kids didn't have many places to put the ball, because when they went to shoot I felt like the Maryland defenders were all in the lane."