By Todd Carton –
It began with a Navy turnover. It built with a Megan Taylor save. And it crested with a natural hat trick by Megan Whittle. In this instance, “it” is a 17-15 come from behind win by the Maryland Terrapins over the Navy Midshipmen in Saturday’s NCAA Tournament quarterfinal. With the win, Maryland advances to their tenth consecutive Final Four where they will face the Boston College Eagles – who edged previously undefeated Stony Brook 12-11 in double overtime – in a rematch of the 2017 championship game.
Saturday’s game hinged on three unusually dominant scoring runs. The first belonged to the Terps who, after falling behind 2-0, outscored the Mids 8-1 over a span of about 13 minutes on the game clock. The impressive aspect of this outburst is that the only contribution from Maryland’s all-time leading goal scorer, Megan Whittle, was an assist on a goal by Caroline Steele. Many teams would be daunted by this degree of secondary firepower.
But Navy isn’t most teams and they’re captained by Cindy Timchal – a coach who is a legend in NCAA lacrosse. Navy entered the game with a potent offensive attack that averaged more than 17 goals per game led by the Collins twins – Jenna with 82 goals and Julia with 69. The Terps defense might have been geared to stop Jenna and if it was, they succeeded. She finished with just a single goal. However, Maryland had virtually no answer for Julia who strafed the net eight times with six coming in the first half.
Her third score of the half launched Navy’s comeback as the Mids set sail on the second of the game’s dominant runs – a 9-1 scoring broadside that began with 10:54 in the first half and, aided by a salvo of six Terrapins turnovers, ended when Collins scored with 26:54 to play in the second half. The run not only propelled Navy to a 10-9 halftime lead but extended it to 12-9.
When Jen Giles ended Navy’s string of goals and Kali Hartshorn followed with her third of the game to close the gap to 12-11, some of the tension in the Maryland fan base that had become almost as taut as a mooring line eased. But that sense that the seas had calmed was fleeting. Navy answered with a pair of goals of their own to once again extend the lead to three with just over 18 minutes to play.
And then it began. Julia Collins made one of her few mistakes of the day losing control of the ball and allowing a hustling Giles to scoop it up. The transition led to a free position goal by Taylor Hensh – her second of the day. Maryland trailed 14-12.
On the ensuing possession, Navy worked the ball for nearly 70 seconds of the 90 second clock but Taylor made the save on a shot by the Mids’ Kayla Harris from about three meters. Forty seconds later Giles scored for the fourth time and the gap was again one.
And then it became Whittle time. The senior had missed her first six shots of the game took a hard foul going to the goal. On the ensuing free position, she unlocked the launch codes and found the back of the net tying the game with the first of her three consecutive scores. By the time she completed her outburst, she had essentially torpedoed Navy’s hopes of returning to Championship weekend for a second consecutive year.
With just over four minutes to play Hensh capped the last of the three dominant runs – a 6-0 Maryland bombardment. Shortly after Hensh’s score Navy, who sought to use physical play to try to intimidate Maryland, picked up the fifth of their seven yellow cards on the day. Though the Mids would score once more, the Terps cruised to victory over the final few minutes.