With perhaps its best offensive performance of the season in Friday night's national semifinal, the top-seeded Maryland women's lacrosse team built plenty of momentum to carry into Sunday's 11 a.m. championship game against unseeded Boston College.
"We just need to keep it going, keep our foot on the gas, keep that energy going," said Maryland coach Cathy Reese, who has taken the Terps to five straight title games and seven of the past eight with three championships.
The Terps (22-0) have the most prolific offense in the country, averaging 17 goals per game after routing Big Ten rival and No. 4 seed Penn State, 20-10, Friday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
They haven't shot well at times through the season and Reese would prefer their shooting percentage of .478 be over .500, but the Terps had everything clicking Friday night. They shot 59 percent and put away 71 percent of their shots on goal.
Jen Giles (Mount Hebron) and Taylor Hensh (Marriotts Ridge) — the cousin duo that has come on strong in the past two games — each scored on all four shots they took. Kali Hartshorn hit four of six and Zoe Stukenberg (Marriotts Ridge) and Megan Whittle (McDonongh) each hit three of five.
"The balance of our offense throughout the entire season kind of takes the pressure off each individual player," said midfielder Stukenberg, senior co-captain and Tewaaraton Award finalist along with defender Nadine Hadnagy.
"We know that ... we don't need our No. 1 attacker to have seven goals to win this game; we just need everyone to just play a good game and play together," she said after the semifinal win. "And I think that that helps in giving everyone confidence and ... it helps just kind of establish a flow in the game, I guess, just knowing that you personally don't have to put the team on your back, that everyone is going to step up, everyone is going to contribute."
Another key for the Terps has been on the draw, where freshman Hartshorn has emerged as one of the best in the nation with 105, including nine against Penn State as Maryland won 22 of 32. The Eagles won 14 of 32 against Navy.
While the Terps are for their 13th NCAA championship, Boston College (17-6) is in the final for the first time and is the first unseeded team to reach the title game since the tournament expanded beyond four teams.
Eagles coach Acacia Walker knows something about the Terps and not just because Maryland defeated her team, 21-13, on March 8. Walker, an Annapolis graduate, played in the Terps high-powered offense from 2002-05 when Reese, a Mount Hebron graduate, was an assistant coach.
She knows a slow start like the Eagles had in their 16-15 semifinal win over Navy would likely doom their title aspirations.
"We have to have a good first half," said Walker, in her fifth year coaching Boston College. "What I know best about Maryland is they'll eat you alive if you have five minutes off, and you can't, so we're going to have to figure out how to recover our bodies and prepare our minds and get strapped on because we can't take time off the way that we did [Friday night]."
In the March meeting, the Terps scored the first four goals, but Boston College rallied to tie and trailed, 8-7, at the break. Then Maryland scored the first six goals of the second half en route to one of its two highest-scoring outputs of the season.
The Eagles, however, have turned it on in the playoffs. While they averaged 14.8 goals before the NCAA tournament, they increased that to 19.5 in their four tournament games, which included upsets of sixth-seeded Syracuse and USC.
Kenzie Kent, an ice hockey player who joined the lacrosse team in late March, adds another scoring dimension to a team that already had four players with at least 70 points. In just 11 games, the junior attacker is the team's fifth-leading scorer and had five goals and an assist against Navy.
With these two offenses, the title game could be a high-scoring affair, but Maryland has one of the top 15 stingiest defenses in Division I, allowing 9.23 goals per game backed by sophomore Megan Taylor (Glenelg), one of two first-team All-American goalies who has the third-best save percentage in Division I at .539.
The Eagles allow 12.4 goals per game, but their goalies, Zoe Ochoa and Lauren Daly, can get hot and combined for 14 saves against Navy, which outshot Boston College, 40-34.
While Maryland aims to send its seniors out with three championships in four years, the Eagles want to become only the 12th program to win a Division I championship since the NCAA took over women's lacrosse in 1982. In the past 26 years, five programs have dominated the national championships — Maryland with 11 titles, Northwestern with seven, Virginia and Princeton with three each and North Carolina with two.