clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament 2017: Maryland’s seniors shined in comeback vs. Stony Brook

New, 14 comments

The veterans came through on Saturday, as they’ve done for four years.

NCAA Lacrosse: Women's Championship - Maryland Terrapins vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

With Saturday’s victory over Stony Brook, Maryland women’s lacrosse’s senior class improved to 87-3 over four seasons. The group finished with a career record of 46-0 at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, undefeated despite playing regular season, Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament games on that field.

“That’s something that speaks to the type of people that are in this group of 10 seniors,” midfielder Zoe Stukenberg said after the game. “Everyone contributes something different to our team, but everyone is so valuable and everyone would give anything and everything for this team”

Every year, Cathy Reese recruits top freshmen who come into an already well-oiled machine, ready to learn from successful teammates. Four years later, those freshmen become seniors. Still part of the machine, they pass on what they’ve learned to the rest of the team, to ensure the cycle lives on.

“Collectively, these guys as a class have just left their mark on Maryland lacrosse,” Reese said. “They’ve taught our freshmen and sophomores a lot over the course of their time, and now those guys will be our future leaders.”

Years of success were on display Saturday, when Maryland defeated an up-and-coming, yet relatively inexperienced Stony Brook team 13-12.

“Why is Maryland good every year? Because they have great culture,” Seawolves head coach Joe Spallina said. “Culture feeds culture.”

Everyone has a role to play.

This team wasn’t expected to be this good. Among last year’s seniors, Maryland lost Taylor Cummings, a three-time Tewaaraton Award winner who stands second in Maryland history with 323 points, and Alice Mercer, a three-year starter who was last year’s national defender of the year.

But the Terps didn’t skip a beat. They proved their on-field talent and off-field character can survive any player’s graduation. Reese inserted Kali Hartshorn into Cummings’ spot in the lineup, and the freshman responded with 52 goals and 92 draw controls. This is credit to what the upperclassman have already established, ensuring a smooth transition.

Stukenberg and Nadine Hadnagy are the Tewaaraton award finalists, but the other eight seniors are crucial as well.

For starters, Caroline Wannen may be the most under-appreciated player on the team. Wannen is entering the Final Four with a team-leading 36 assists, and she’s third with 69 points. Her play in the offensive zone, specifically behind the net, is impressive.

“She’s our quarterback,” Stukenberg said. “She does such a fabulous job of keeping us calm, keeping us moving, getting us into different sets, and she has fabulous vision.”

Morgan Torggler and Marissa Donoghue are quiet but important contributors to Maryland’s strong defense. Torggler has started all 21 games this year, after starting 22 last year, and Donoghue is the first defender off the bench. Donoghue started four games due to others’ injuries this year, including both NCAA Tournament games.

Bairre Reilly and Theo Kwas are rotation players who both play important leadership roles on the team. Reilly, specifically, brings crucial positivity to the locker room.

“Bairre’s been someone that has just continued to work hard over four years, really matured and developed and is a leader on our team,” Reese said. “She’s someone that’s behind the scenes, just really positive [and] really influential in all of our players lives.”

Goalkeeper Emily Kift spent most of her Maryland career as a backup net-minder, but has always been ready when necessary. She played all 60 minutes in a 17-4 win over Johns Hopkins when Megan Taylor was injured, saving 10 of 14 shots. Additionally, neither Lindsay Biondi nor Deb Milani played a minute this year, and both spent most of their time at Maryland coming off the bench when healthy. Yet, even when on the sidelines, the two midfielders, and the rest of the team, can affect the game.

“You might not play a second during the game, but you are important,” Reese said. “Everyone’s role on the sideline matters.”

Reese trusted her seniors to lead the team to victory. And it worked.

When Maryland began to chip away at its deficit against Stony Brook, cutting the lead to 11-9 with 14:16 left, the Seawolves called timeout. Trying to maintain momentum in the game. Reese could’ve said anything to keep her team going.

Instead, she let Stukenberg and Hadnagy do it.

“I looked at Zoe and Nadine and said ‘This is you, go,’ and walked away,” she said.

It’s not often that a coach, with the season on the line and trailing in the game, will leave a timeout speech completely up to her players. Yet, Reese left the huddle, unaware of what her two seniors said.

“For me as a coach, I trust our leaders on this team so much, and this is their team,” Reese said. “Sometimes, they can say more than I can.”

Now, Maryland will look to finish what it started. Sure, these seniors have two championships already, but last year’s loss against North Carolina in the title game, preventing an undefeated season, still stings.

This weekend, these seniors will look to cap their time at Maryland with that undefeated season. It may be the only achievement they haven’t accomplished—yet.