With the Maryland women’s lacrosse team trailing Navy midway through the second half of the teams’ NCAA tournament quarterfinal game, attacker Taylor Hensh walked up to her roommate, attacker Megan Whittle, with a message.
Whittle, the program’s all-time leading scorer, went the first 49 minutes against the Midshipmen without a goal.
“Start shooting the ball,” Hensh told her.
Whittle listened. With 10:32 remaining, she tied the game with a free position shot. She then scored two more goals in the next five minutes to give No. 1-seed Maryland its first lead of the second half, helping the Terps secure a 17-15 comeback victory and avoid a stunning upset.
Whittle’s late heroics clinched Maryland’s 10th consecutive final four berth.
“Our elite eight matchups are always very difficult, every team is fighting, and the final four is going to be the same way,” Whittle said. “We love this. This is our goal.”
Last season, the Terps had to overcome an 11-7 second-half deficit to Stony Brook to win their quarterfinal game. This year, Navy attacker Julia Collins put the Midshipmen in position to end Maryland’s streak by tying her career high with eight goals while taking just 11 shots.
The Midshipmen defense also challenged a usually dominant Maryland offense, causing eight Maryland turnovers and holding it scoreless for nearly 10 minutes at the end of the first half, while Collins and the offense closed the period on a 5-0 run that gave Navy a 10-9 lead at intermission.
The Midshipmen extended its advantage to three goals twice in the second half, responding to Maryland’s comeback efforts with goals of their own. But with Navy up 14-11 with about 14 minutes left, attacker Taylor Hensh scored to start a 6-0 Maryland run led by Whittle’s quick hat trick.
That flurry pushed Maryland to the final four, but it was midfielder Jen Giles who kept the team in the game in the earlier stages. She tied her career high with four goals and added three assists, while Hensh and attacker Kali Hartshorn also had hat tricks.
“[Giles] was phenomenal,” coach Cathy Reese said. “She just plays with so much heart. She loves this game, she loves the sport, she loves her teammates, she loves Maryland. … Her passion really led the way for us all over the field today.”
Seniors Hensh and Whittle said they were especially motivated to get the win given that it was their last game at the Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex, a field where this year’s senior class never lost, going 47-0.
The Terps limited Collins in the second half by beginning to face-guard her, a strategy Reese said her team rarely uses. It worked, though, holding the senior to two goals after halftime after she scored six in the first half.
Maryland will face Boston College, which clinched a 12-11 overtime win over Stony Brook, in the NCAA semifinals on May 25 at Stony Brook. The Terps defeated the Eagles, 16-13, in the national championship last year.
“The regular season was season one, season two [was the] Big Ten [tournament] and season three is making it to the final four and the National Championship round,” Whittle said. “Very excited. But again, we have to take it a game at a time; a day at a time.”