BALTIMORE — The sound of the final buzzer becomes a magnetic force. And when the national championship trophy is on the sideline, emotions are unleashed in a way that only takes place on the final day of the season.
Once 60 minutes had drained from the clock Sunday afternoon at John Hopkins’ Homewood Field, the Maryland women’s lacrosse players rushed toward their goal, where senior goalie Megan Taylor had denied Boston College’s rally and secured a 12-10 win in the national title game. As the players dogpiled and their sticks went airborne, Terps staff members embraced on the sideline. They had coached the team to its fifth national championship since Cathy Reese became head coach in 2007.
Parents with their daughters’ jersey numbers on the back of their hats celebrated in the stands, using their phones to capture the moment. In front of them, Maryland lacrosse alumnae stood at the fence and chanted Reese’s name. The coach stood a few feet away with her hands on her knees, then looked up and thanked the players who had built a championship foundation that this program considers the norm.
“That’s a lot of hugs,” Reese said before rattling off the importance of her staff, her four children and the program’s alumnae. She became emotional in doing so and during other moments in Sunday’s postgame news conference — when teammates described their relationships with one another or when she was asked about how players call their time at Maryland the best four years of their lives.
Inside a packed stadium on the campus of Johns Hopkins University, which Sunday had no empty bleachers as fans lined the field’s fenced perimeter, top-ranked Maryland’s senior class earned the ultimate ending. These seniors only lost four times in their careers, and they finished their four-year stays by earning the program’s 14th NCAA title.
“To be honest, I never want it to end, even though this is the best outcome ever,” senior Caroline Steele said. “I never want to stop playing with these girls.”
Taylor earned MVP honors by making 10 saves; they followed her 14 stops in Friday’s semifinal win over Northwestern. The Maryland defense, led by Taylor, played the best it has all season, Reese said, especially given how No. 2 Boston College came in averaging more than 17 goals.
Boston College switched goalies in the first half of its semifinal win against North Carolina, and on Sunday, senior Lauren Daly received the nod from the get-go over sophomore Abbey Ngai. Maryland’s attack still sliced through the defense: Grace Griffin and Brindi Griffin led the team with three goals apiece, and three other players finished with two.
“Everyone’s a threat,” senior Jen Giles said. “When you have seven people that can score at any time, that’s a team. That’s when you play together. And that’s when you can come to these moments.”
Maryland (22-1) had a multigoal lead through nearly the entire contest. But then, powered by four second-half goals from Kenzie Kent, the Eagles (22-2) pushed closer to the Terps as the game neared its end. Boston College trimmed Maryland’s lead to two after Kent notched her second straight goal in 25 seconds with under four minutes to play. But after losing to the Eagles in last year’s national semifinals, Maryland didn’t allow another goal.
“Honestly, in that moment, I wish there was more time,” said Taylor, the Terps’ ever-calm goalie. “I never wanted to take off the jersey. I never wanted it to end. I wanted to keep playing the entire time. That whole situation, I was just ready to make another stop or have my defense communicate and watch them score and get excited. I feel like I’m in a dream. I’m just so happy.”
Taylor’s father, Gary, usually wears a black hat to watch his daughter, the youngest of three siblings. But before the Northwestern game Friday — a rematch of the Big Ten Tournament championship game and Maryland’s only loss this season — he switched to red. On Sunday, he wore the same outfit as two days prior.
After the Maryland players moved the celebration from near their goal to the sideline, they hugged the former players. Taylor, with a championship hat on backward and a new T-shirt swallowing her 5-foot-3 body, waved to her dad. He gave her a thumbs-up, and Taylor pointed to the trophy, still smiling.