The most prolific scorer in the long and storied history of Maryland women’s lacrosse had gone without a goal for nearly 50 minutes against Navy during Saturday afternoon’s NCAA tournament quarterfinal game.
Then during a brief interlude late in the second half with the top-seeded Terrapins staging a rally, attack Megan Whittle felt a tug at her face mask. It was fellow senior Taylor Hensh imploring her record-setting teammate to shoot the ball.
Whittle gladly complied, scoring three in a row during a decisive stretch of a 17-15 win to help push Maryland to its 10th consecutive appearance in the sport’s Final Four. The Terrapins will next face Boston College on Friday night in Stony Brook, N.Y., in a rematch of last year’s NCAA title game that Maryland won, 16-13.
On Saturday, the second of Whittle’s goals, with 6:38 to play, put the Terrapins (20-1) ahead to stay, 15-14, in soggy conditions at the school’s lacrosse and field hockey complex, where Maryland extended its home winning streak to 76. Part of that run includes a 46-0 record by this year’s senior class.
“It’s my senior year, and as the Class of 2018, that was our last game on this field, regardless of the outcome,” Whittle said. “So I think we were all really fired up. Navy’s a very talented defense. They were going in and out of a zone, a bit of a face-guard, different things. Just letting the game come to me. I didn’t want to force anything.”
Whittle’s hat trick increased her career goal total to 297, second most in NCAA history. She had passed Jen Adams earlier this season for career goals at Maryland.
Junior midfielder Jen Giles scored a team-high four goals for Maryland, and junior goalkeeper Megan Taylor made 13 saves, several of which came on point-blank shots down the stretch to preserve the lead after the Terrapins erased a three-goal deficit in the second half.
“Megan Taylor, I mean, c’mon,” Maryland Coach Cathy Reese said. “In the second half she was outstanding with huge saves, because we had a hard time stopping them at first. We had some huge saves in the second half that enabled us to have possession and go.”
Navy’s Julia Collins was an especially difficult matchup in the first half, when the senior attack scored six goals. Collins scored eight times in all to match her program record and became the third Midshipman this season to amass 100 points.
No other player scored more than twice for Navy (18-4), which was bidding to advance to a second straight national semifinal. Last season the Midshipmen upset North Carolina in the quarterfinals to become the first women’s team at a service academy to reach a Final Four in any sport.
“We had the three-goal lead, and Maryland came back and made it tough for us to get back in it,” said Navy Coach Cindy Timchal, who won eight national championships while coaching at Maryland. “We had our chances, but we just, some failed clears, some failed opportunities, but we were in position to do well today. We came up short.”
Navy went into halftime ahead 10-9 after five consecutive goals. Attack-midfielder Andie O’Sullivan converted a pass from Jenna Collins, Julia’s sister, with 42 seconds to play to give Navy the lead.
The last two goals in the rush came off turnovers, including Julia Collins’s sixth with 1:53 to go that evened the score for the first time in nearly 19 minutes. Maryland, meanwhile, went without a goal for the final 9:46 of the first half.
Earlier in the first half, Taylor, the Terrapins junior and 2017 national goalie of the year, logged her 500th career save to become the fifth player at Maryland to reach that milestone.
Five consecutive goals, all from different players, over six-plus minutes early in the first half had provided the Terrapins an 8-3 advantage with 13:39 to play. Junior midfielder Caroline Steele scored at 19:57 to start the flurry, and it concluded with Giles’s tally off free position shot.
Ten turnovers in the first half plagued Maryland, which trailed at the half for the second time this season. The only other such instance occurred April 10 against Princeton, when the Terrapins were behind 7-4 at the break but rallied for an 11-10 triumph on the road.
“Proud of our girls and how we rebounded today,” said Reese, who played for Timchal at Maryland. “It was kind of a game of runs. We had a good lead early in the first half, and that kind of dwindled away. Second half to be able to keep fighting, they never gave up.”