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Maryland women’s lacrosse couldn’t repeat in 2018, but it’s not going anywhere

The Terps missed the national title game for the first time in six years, but should be right back in the mix next year.

NCAA Lacrosse: Women’s Lacrosse Championship-Maryland vs Boston College Chris Bergmann-USA TODAY Sports

A season over, a streak broken, a future bright. That’s where Maryland women’s lacrosse is positioned at the end of the 2018 season.

For many programs, a 20-2 record and a trip to the Final Four would signify a great season. But Cathy Reese’s dynasty offers no consolation prizes after the season is completed—you either win the national championship, or you don’t. It’s as simple as that. After competing in the last five title games dating back to 2013, the Terrapins were resigned to watching 2018’s matchup between James Madison and Boston College from afar.

It wasn’t for a lack of effort.

From the outset, it was hard to imagine a situation in which Maryland could live up to the bar set by the previous team that finished undefeated, taking home the program’s 13th title. But at most every turn, it seemed as though the Terps had what it took to repeat as national champions.

Sure, a top ranking in the polls proved to be elusive as the season progressed. However, those rankings are notoriously subjective, and they have no real bearing on postseason standing. That was evident in Maryland earning the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Being considered the best in all the land sets certain expectations that need to be met. Unfortunately for Maryland, that never came to pass.

The Terps fought all season to get where they did, surviving scares against Princeton and Navy, among others, to wind up in Stony Brook during Memorial Day weekend. And once there, the scene was set to repeat as champs. North Carolina has been a thorn in Maryland’s side for years now, but the Tar Heels fell to James Madison in Friday’s first semifinal game.

That placed the Dukes in the first slot on Sunday afternoon, giving the Terrapins a potential dream scenario to bring home a 14th title. All that was left to do was get past Boston College on Friday night.

Maryland led 13-0 in the series heading into the matchup, including last year’s championship game. And if that wasn’t enough, the Eagles’ best player, Kenzie Kent, had been out all season. However, a 15-13 loss sent the Terps packing early. It was an emotional scene after that game, and a losing performance is the last taste of collegiate action these seniors will have.

Several key pieces are departing.

Among them is Megan Whittle, the program’s leader in goals scored. Whittle’s career ended with a one-goal performance on three shots Friday, but she had scored eight, six and three goals in her previous three postseason games. She finished the season with 84 and her college stint with 298.

Including Whittle, eight players will be graduating from the program, including three starters week in and week out: Whittle, Taylor Hensh and Kathy Rudkin. This senior class finished with an 86-4 record, winning the Big Ten regular-season title four times while winning the Big Ten tournament thrice. But the group is largely known for its four Final Four appearances and two national championships (Rudkin came in as a transfer this past offseason, but the point still remains). The losses will be felt, but they’re not as monumental as last season’s departures that saw two National Players of the Year leave the team.

Whittle’s legacy will live on forever in College Park, but the Terrapins attack has always been predicated on its depth. When one player is removed, the rest of them pick up the slack. There’s little doubt that the offense can be great once again, and the defense only needs to fill one gap as of now. There are a ton of young athletes chomping at the bit for the opportunity, and if history is any sort of predictor, someone will step up in a big way.

So where does that leave the team now?

For starters, the 2019 season might be one of the more important in recent history. Not only will there be a plethora of question marks regarding the absence of Whittle, but the program now needs to prove it’s still a perennial powerhouse in the sport. Boston College drew blood against Maryland on Friday, a role usually reserved for North Carolina, the Terrapins’ only true kryptonite. Goliath’s weaknesses were exposed, and measures need to be taken to avoid that happening again.

A sense of urgency is likely in place as well, as the 2019 senior class may be the deepest in a while. Among those entering their final year are Jen Giles, Caroline Steele, Julia Braig, Megan Taylor and Meghan Siverson. That’s a lot of shoes to fill at one time, which makes winning one final national championship with the group a priority.

It’s natural to feel lost in the loss and anxious about the future. But this is Maryland women’s lacrosse. Until told otherwise, the dynasty is still alive and well in College Park. And with that, we’re on to 2019.