BALTIMORE — The sound of the final buzzer becomes a magnetic force. And when the national championship trophy is on the sideline, emotions are unleashed in a way that only takes place on the final day of the season.
Once 60 minutes had drained from the clock Sunday afternoon at Homewood Field, the Maryland women’s lacrosse players rushed toward their goal, where senior goalie Megan Taylor had denied Boston College’s rally and secured a 12-10 win. As the players dogpiled and their sticks went airborne, Terps staff members embraced on the sideline. They had led the team to its fifth national championship since Cathy Reese became head coach in 2007 and the program’s 14th NCAA championship overall, the most in history.
Parents with their daughters’ jersey numbers on the back of their hats celebrated in the stands, using their phones to capture the moment. In front of them, Maryland lacrosse alumnae gathered at the fence chanted Reese’s name. The coach stood a few feet away with her hands on her knees, then looked up and thanked the players who built the championship tradition that current members of the program consider the norm.
“That’s a lot of hugs,” Reese said before rattling off the importance of her staff, her four children and the alumnae. She became emotional while doing so and at other moments during Sunday’s postgame news conference — when teammates described their relationships with one another, or when she was asked about how players call their time at Maryland the best four years of their lives.
Inside a packed stadium at Johns Hopkins University, which Sunday had no empty bleachers as fans lined the field’s fenced perimeter, top-ranked Maryland’s senior class earned the ultimate ending. These seniors only lost four times in their careers, and they finished their four-year stays by earning their second NCAA title.
“To be honest, I never want it to end, even though this is the best outcome ever,” said senior Caroline Steele, who was also part of the 2017 team that won a national title. “I never want to stop playing with these girls.”
Taylor earned MVP honors by making 10 saves; they followed her 14 stops in Friday’s semifinal win over Northwestern. The Maryland defense, led by Taylor, played the best it has all season, Reese said, especially given how No. 2 Boston College came in averaging more than 17 goals.
Boston College switched goalies in the first half of its semifinal win against North Carolina, and on Sunday, senior Lauren Daly received the nod from the get-go over sophomore Abbey Ngai. Maryland’s attack still sliced through the defense: Grace Griffin and Brindi Griffin led the team with three goals apiece and Steele, Jen Giles and Kali Hartshorn finished with two each.
“Everyone’s a threat,” Giles, a senior, said. “When you have seven people that can score at any time, that’s a team. That’s when you play together. And that’s when you can come to these moments.”
Maryland (22-1) had a multigoal lead nearly the entire contest and was up 10-5 with 20:03 to play. But powered by four second-half goals from Kenzie Kent, the Eagles (22-2) pushed closer. When that pressure arrived, Reese’s message to her players was this: “Don’t let this moment be bigger than you.”
Boston College trimmed Maryland’s lead to two after Kent notched the second of two goals in 25 seconds with under four minutes to play. But Maryland, after losing to the Eagles in last year’s national semifinals, didn’t allow another goal.
“Honestly, in that moment, I wish there was more time,” said Taylor, the Terps’ ever-calm goalie. “I never wanted to take off the jersey. I never wanted it to end. I wanted to keep playing the entire time. That whole situation, I was just ready to make another stop or have my defense communicate and watch [the offense] score and get excited. I feel like I’m in a dream. I’m just so happy.”
Taylor’s father, Gary, usually wears a black hat to watch his daughter, the youngest of three siblings. But before the Northwestern game — a rematch of the Big Ten tournament championship game, Maryland’s only loss this season — he switched to red. On Sunday, he wore the same outfit.
After the players moved the celebration from near their goal to the sideline, they hugged the alumnae, played around in the rainbow confetti and posed for photos they’ll keep forever. Taylor, with a championship hat on backward and a new T-shirt swallowing her 5-foot-3 body, waved to her dad. He gave her a thumbs-up, and Taylor pointed to her trophy, still smiling.
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