As the Maryland women’s lacrosse team nervously huddled during a timeout in the middle of the second half of Saturday’s NCAA tournament quarterfinal against visiting Stony Brook, facing its largest deficit of the season and looking primed for a massive upset, Coach Cathy Reese pulled on her aviator sunglasses and scanned her group. She didn’t say a word. Then she pointed at her two senior captains, midfielder Zoe Stukenberg and defender Nadine Hadnagy. “This is you,” she said, before calmly walking away.
Reese didn’t know after the game what was said in that huddle, but her team’s action spoke much louder than words. Reese watched her Terrapins storm out of that timeout, rally from four goals down and claim a dramatic 13-12 victory, clinching their ninth consecutive trip to the Final Four.
The top-seeded Terrapins (21-0) will meet the winner of Sunday’s game between No. 5 seed Princeton and No. 4 seed Penn State in a national semifinal next weekend in Foxborough, Mass. But it was premature for Reese to start thinking about that trip after Saturday’s close call against the upstart Seawolves (20-2).
Maryland scored six of the game’s final seven goals capped by junior attack Taylor Hensh’s game-winner with 2:12 remaining, which marked the first time the Terrapins had led all afternoon. Hensh finished with three goals, as did Stukenberg, who watched Reese get emotional after Maryland survived to win on its home field for the 65th consecutive game.
“Nadine and I were just trying to keep our heads up and lead by example,” said Stukenberg, who will finish her college career having never lost a home game. “I think everyone on this team is so talented, and so confident and so passionate about this goal that we have.”
Attaining that goal — to bring a 13th national championship to College Park — nearly imploded on Saturday. The Terrapins were outplayed in nearly every facet against the eighth-seeded Seawolves, who entered the afternoon on a 15-game win streak and as the national leader in seven statistical categories, including scoring defense. They clogged lanes and crowded Maryland’s prolific offense at every turn, and on the other end, they peppered Maryland goalkeeper Megan Taylor with 12 goals on 26 shots.
That included three goals from junior attack Kylie Ohlmiller, a Tewaraaton Award finalist who also had four assists. Her final assist went to her younger sister, freshman attack Taryn Ohlmiller, who finished to make it 11-7 with 14:57 remaining. It was the largest deficit for Maryland since last season’s national championship loss to North Carolina.
Reese wanted to “rechannel and funnel” her team’s energy through a timeout after that point, but she decided that a fiery speech wouldn’t work. She calmly stalked the sideline and watched as her leaders took over.
It didn’t hurt that Maryland won seven of the final nine draw controls — it held a 19-7 advantage overall — or that Stony Brook was called for 58 fouls to the Terrapins’ 15. Maryland also received a string of crucial offensive plays from Hensh and sophomore midfielder Jen Giles. In a 70-second span after Stony Brook had taken a four-goal lead, Hensh scored twice off Giles assists. Giles also scored two unassisted goals, the second of which pulled Maryland within 12-11 with 8:56 remaining.
“Just the way we were attacking … I was cutting harder, probably harder than I was the first half,” Hensh said. “I just finished today.”
While Maryland’s defense finally stiffened in the final 10 minutes, Hensh set up the game-tying goal for Caroline Steele with 3:18 remaining. After Maryland won the ensuing draw, Stukenberg patiently waited for Hensh to cut into the middle of Stony Brook’s tiring defense. Stony Brook would not get another look to tie after Maryland won another draw control, fittingly earning another Final Four berth by running down the clock on its home field.
“I think that’s what makes me so emotional about it. We haven’t been in this situation much,” Reese said. “For this group to actually play one play at a time, one goal at time, it’s easy to say. It’s one thing to say it, it’s another thing to do it.”