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Finally, A Perfect Ending (Snap Judgments: 2017 D1 Women’s Lacrosse Final)

Robert Cole/ALOST
Sophomore midfielder Jen Giles scored two important back-to-back goals early in the second half to ease some nerves and allow Maryland to win another national championship. (Robert Cole/ALOST)
Sophomore midfielder Jen Giles (5) scored two important back-to-back goals early in the second half to ease some nerves and allow Maryland to win another national championship. (Robert Cole/ALOST)

 

FOXBORO, MA — The tears streaming down the faces of the Maryland women’s lacrosse players on the playing field this time around were tears of joy, as the fairy tale ending that was put on hold in heartbreaking fashion at this time last year finally played out the way they wanted it in 2017

Maryland completed a perfect 23-0 season – and a season of redemption – with a 16-13 victory over Boston College to win the 2017 women’s lacrosse national championship in Foxboro. The dominant program in women’s lacrosse for a generation, the Terrapins have now won an NCAA-record 14 national championships.

“They played their hearts out,” said Maryland head coach Cathy Reese, her fourth national championship as head coach of the Terrapins after winning four as a player in College Park. “To have the season that they had this year going undefeated was something that’s really special. So huge congratulations to all of my players.”

Reese might have been saying that after last season’s national championship game, but the Terrapins, who also went into last season’s national championship game undefeated, lost to North Carolina 13-7 in the title game. As much as the Terrapins have been the juggernaut of women’s lacrosse, they had not won a national championship since 2015 – almost an eternity for those associated with the program and its near unprecedented success. One of the players who had yet to experience that championship feeling until today, sophomore attacker Caroline Steele, led the Terrapins with six goals on the afternoon.

“It’s really an unbelievable feeling,” said Steele, whose six goals today tied an NCAA Championship game record. “We worked so hard this season and finally put it all together. Today was a team effort, as it always is.”

Steele scored three goals in succession to give the Terrapins a 5-2 lead, with the third of those goals coming at the 16:11 mark of the first half. But from then on, Maryland went the next 16:30 without a tally, allowing the Eagles to score the last three goals of the first half to tie the game at five at the intermission.

“Yeah, we were 5-for-21 [shooting at the half],” said freshman attacker/midfielder Kali Hartshorn, whose 58th goal of the season at the 8:40 mark of the second half proved to be the game winner. “Our shots were not falling at all. Getting that quick goal within the first 30 seconds or so really, I think, brought us up. But I think what we didn’t do is we didn’t capitalize on situations when we could have. I think during halftime we said zero, zero, obviously, 5-5. Cathy just motivated us. It’s all about us this year. It’s been our motto, and I think we really went out and we did do us. We were behind each other 110 percent.”

Maryland started the second half scoring five unanswered goals in the first 4:26 of the half to take control of the contest, with Steele and Jen Giles scoring twice in that run. Boston College, led by Kenzie Kent, the junior attacker and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, would cut the lead to 11-10 with 14 minutes remaining on a Dempsey Arsenault goal which was assisted by Kent. However, the Eagles would get no closer. Kent finished the game with five goals and five assists, with her 10 points tying a new Championship game scoring record.

“Obviously we lost today, but it’s a cool experience,” said Kent, who also set the NCAA Tournament record for most points in a single tournament with 37. “It’s been amazing, especially with this team. It’s been a really special one.”

For the Maryland seniors, they wrap up their careers with a third national championship and the perfect way to leave College Park.

“Coming to Maryland was so much more — this is more than a lacrosse team,” said senior midfielder Zoe Stukenberg. “This is a family, and this was everything I ever dreamed or hoped of. This was way more. I love Maryland. I love everything about it. I love Cathy [Reese]. I just can’t speak highly enough of her. We’re not just lacrosse players to her. I think that we’re not lacrosse players to each other. We matter. I don’t know how to put it into words really. These people are special, and the people I’ve met over the four years are special. Every single person I’ve had the privilege to play with really left a mark on me. I feel like when I look back on four years, it was an unbelievable lacrosse experience. Three for four isn’t too shabby. Finishing up your senior season undefeated is pretty awesome.”

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