Maryland women’s lacrosse completes dream season with title-game triumph

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. —After the Maryland women’s lacrosse team had sealed a 16-13 victory over Boston College in the national championship game on Sunday afternoon, clinching its third title in four years and NCAA-best 13th overall crown, Zoe Stukenberg realized there was nothing left to conquer. As the celebration began, she turned to her coaches and teammates for reaffirmation on a 23-0 season.

After the Maryland women’s lacrosse team had sealed a 16-13 victory over Boston College in the national championship game on Sunday afternoon, clinching its third title in four years and NCAA-best 13th overall crown, Zoe Stukenberg realized there was nothing left to conquer. As the celebration began, she turned to her coaches and teammates for reaffirmation on a 23-0 season. 

“Wait, we didn’t lose. Did we just go undefeated this year?” Stukenberg said within earshot of Maryland Coach Cathy Reese, who dried her eyes as she recounted the moment afterward at Gillette Stadium. 

Even if Stukenberg wasn’t really oblivious to Maryland’s unblemished run this year, the senior captain and her teammates never played like it as heavy favorites against the Eagles on Sunday. Boston College (17-7) had unloaded everything it had on the top-seeded Terrapins, who nearly blew a five-goal lead in the second half before stabilizing with a crucial 5-1 run late in the second half. 

“I think to take down Maryland is like slaying a dragon,” said Boston College Coach Acacia Walker, a former Maryland player who knew she was up against more than just the country’s most talented roster on Sunday. Walker and her assistant, Jennifer Kent, had pored over the film of Maryland’s loss to North Carolina in the national championship game last season several times this week, looking for clues on how to expose her alma mater. But they also came away from those sessions knowing how that loss would psychologically factor into Sunday’s game. “I think Jen and I knew in the back of our heads that was their motivation,” Walker said. 

Said Reese: “Just to have that feeling and know what it felt like when that final whistle blew was I’m sure something in the back of their head. But I don’t talk about it.” 

What Reese will gladly be willing to talk for years to come is how this group of Terrapins responded on Sunday against the feisty Eagles. It was a microcosm of a season with many close calls. Maryland shot just 5 for 21 in the first half and were tied at 5 at halftime, with Reese strolling into the locker room and calmly staying on message. “It’s never negative,” said sophomore attack Caroline Steele, who tied a title game record with six goals. “No one is selfish. No one has been selfish all year, and I think that’s what makes it so great.” 

Even after Maryland ripped off five consecutive goals to begin the second half, including two apiece from Steele and sophomore Jen Giles, it still had to deal with Boston College junior Kenzie Kent down the stretch. 

Kent was the best player on the field, finishing with five goals and five assists, tying a title-game record with 10 points. After Maryland took a 10-5 lead, Kent answered with three of the game’s next four goals and helped the Eagles make the score 11-10 with 14 minutes remaining. At that point, as a large band of Boston College fans who made the short trek to Gillette Stadium went nuts, it appeared the Eagles were in prime position to pull a historic upset in their first title game appearance. 

“She’s been a big part of where they were able to go this season,” Reese said of Kent, who was later named the most outstanding player at the Final Four. 

But Maryland restored order by using the postseason resolve it had built throughout the past month, which included a come-from-behind, one-goal victory in the quarterfinals against Stony Brook last week. Even after it had blitzed Penn State with a 20-10 win in the semifinals on Friday night, the Terrapins never looked complacent on Sunday. It had steady leadership in Stukenberg and defender Nadine Hadnagy, who never stopped shadowing Kent until the end, and it used the firepower from a young core to pull away late. That included goals from freshman Kali Hartshorn, who earlier in the day had recorded the fastest goal in title-game history by scoring ten seconds in, and Steele added her sixth goal with 5:59 left. Junior Taylor Hensh completed her hat trick with 4:07 left to push the lead back to five goals.

That final burst gave Maryland one last view of the future it holds, with all three of those players set to return to College Park next season. But the lasting image of Sunday’s win was Stukenberg on the dais, wiping away tears with her white championship T-shirt while she reflected on a career that included more than just three national championships. It included perfect send-off in her senior season, in more ways than one.

“This is more than a lacrosse team,” she said. “This is a family, and this was everything I dreamed and hoped of.”


TerrapinTimes Top Stories