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Maryland women’s lacrosse reaches 10th straight Final Four with thrilling 17-15 win over Navy

The Terps faced adversity in the second half, but rallied down the stretch to advance.

NCAA Lacrosse: Women's Championships Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Despite looking down the barrel of a three-goal deficit in the second half Saturday, Maryland women’s lacrosse clinched a Final Four berth with a 17-15 win over Navy.

This was a game of runs, as both teams seemed dominant one minute and lost the next. Navy started off strong, but Maryland went on an 8-1 run to take the lead and make the score a lopsided 8-3. But Navy found a spark in the final minutes of the first half to lead heading into the break. That run continued in the second half, but Maryland found its groove to claw ahead and stay on top.

Maryland may have won the game, but Navy’s Julia Collins had the best performance of the afternoon. The senior had eight goals to bring the Midshipmen back from an early deficit and take the lead. For the Terrapins, four players had hat tricks on the day. Jen Giles led the way with four goals, and Kali Hartshorn, Taylor Hensh, and Megan Whittle all had three.

In this NCAA Quarterfinal matchup, the Midshipmen scored the first two goals of the afternoon. Collins snuck one past Megan Taylor at the 29:04 mark, and Kayla Harris followed that goal up just 55 seconds later.

But Maryland responded. Down 2-0, Taylor Hensh fought inside to earn a free-position opportunity which she would later convert. Then it was time for the Griffin-to-Griffin connection. Brindi Griffin found Grace Griffin to tie the score, and the former found Giles to take the lead just 44 seconds later. That was quickly answered by Collins again, and the score was tied up at three with just over 20 minutes to go.

Then it was time for a signature Terrapins run. The next five goals came from five different Maryland scorers, and the score was suddenly 8-3. Giles scored her second of the game to lead the team to that point, only later to be evened by Hartshorn. Brindi Griffin also got on the board with a goal, adding to her two assists.

But the Midshipmen failed to quit, and Julia Collins to bring them all the way back, scoring six first-half goals to continually spark the offense. Help came from a trio of scorers, including her twin sister Jenna Collins, to eventually take the lead with just 42 seconds to go. Andie O’Sullivan’s goal sent the teams into the halftime break with the visitors ahead, 10-9.

The second half began just as the first had, with Navy scoring the first two goals. Meg O’Donnell scored less than a minute into play, and Collins followed that up at the 26:42 mark with her seventh goal of the game. Now down 12-9, Maryland was in a very similar position to last season. In their quarterfinal game against Stony Brook, the undefeated Terps trailed 11-7 in the second half before eventually winning 13-12.

It only took Maryland 26 seconds to get back on the board, as Giles bullied her way to a goal inside. It gave the junior a hat trick, and Hartshorn did the same a few minutes later. Now down just one, it seemed as though the Terps would tie the score rather imminently.

But Whittle missed a potential tying free-position opportunity, and instead of letting the Terps have another chance, the Midshipmen took it to the cage on consecutive possessions. O’Sullivan scored on the first trip down at the 19:03 mark, and Collins notched her eighth goal of the game less than a minute later. After fighting back, the Terrapins were once again down by three.

After four minutes of scoreless play, Hensh and Giles scored back-to-back within two minutes, and yet another foul by Navy put Whittle on the eight-meter line with a chance to tie the game. Fortunately for the Terps, she found a way to get a bouncing shot past the goalie to even the score at 14 goals apiece.

That took the lid off the goal for Whittle, as she scored two more times to take and extend Maryland’s lead. Thanks to the the senior’s resurgence, Maryland now held a 16-14 lead with over five minutes to go. Looking for insurance, Hensh notched a hat trick by converting on a free-position shot once again. Navy scored with 2:16 left, but a 16-minute drought was too much to overcome.

Three things to know

1. Megan Whittle vanished, until she didn’t. It certainly wasn’t the biggest game of her career, but Saturday’s contest was the most important of 2018. And unfortunately for Maryland, it took her over 45 minutes to score. That goal was one of the biggest of the game, however, as it tied the score at 14 and gave the Terps the chance to take the lead. And if that wasn’t enough, she took the lead a few minutes later.

2. The defense was exposed often. It’s easy to place the blame on Megan Taylor for giving up 14 goals, but the junior still tallied 13 saves. Navy had great looks way too often for Maryland’s liking, as the Midshipmen were able to get off 30 shots, 28 of which were on cage.

3. Another Final Four appearance. Make that 10 straight trips to the Final Four for the Terps, adding another milestone to the ever-growing dynasty that is Maryland women’s lacrosse. On Friday in Stony Brook, New York, the Terps will take on Boston College, who beat undefeated Stony Brook in overtime.

This story has been updated to reflect Boston College beating Stony Brook to set a matchup with Maryland.