Spring, Lacrosse

Go Figure: Just How Good is Maryland?

During this past weekend’s NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal matchup against Stony Brook, Boston College lacrosse rallied to score three goals in the final 16 minutes of regulation. The second-half comeback forced an extra frame, ultimately staging an overtime game-winner that spoiled the Seawolves’ undefeated season and catapulted the Eagles to their second-consecutive Final Four.

It may have only been the Elite Eight, but the heavyweight contest mirrored that of a title game, especially considering the fact that Stony Brook was ranked as the top team in the nation by Inside Lacrosse Poll for the final 11 weeks of the regular season. Before BC can even get back to the National Championship, it’ll have to go through the only other team that occupied the top spot in the polls this year: Maryland.

On Friday night, the former conference foes will reenact last year’s National Championship game in Long Island, N.Y. Unfortunately for the fourth-seeded Eagles (21-1, 7-0 Atlantic Coast), the odds aren’t in their favor. Maryland (20-1, 7-0 Big Ten), which lost its only game of the year to North Carolina back in February, hasn’t dropped more than one contest in a single season since 2012. That stat alone begs the question: Just how good are the Terrapins?

No. 1 seeded Maryland has won more NCAA Tournament games (70) and championships (13) than any other team in the country. It’s not even close—Northwestern is the second-most prestigious program in the nation, and it only has seven titles to its name. The Terrapins have dominated the sport, particularly in the past decade. Ever since head coach Cathy Reese took over, they have been practically unbeatable.

Over the course of the past six years, Maryland has posted a record of 131-5. In that span, the Terrapins have lost just one regular season conference game—a two goal defeat to UNC in the early stages of the 2014 campaign. The Tar Heels are really the only team that has given Maryland fits of late. Of those five aforementioned losses, four came against UNC. Ohio State dealt the remaining defeat—an 11-10 heartbreaker—in the 2015 Big Ten Tournament. Since Maryland is no longer in the ACC, it usually ends up meeting the Tar Heels in the NCAA Tournament. That’s when UNC has affirmed Reese and the program’s mortality. If it wasn’t for the Tar Heels, the Terrapins would be going on their sixth-straight national championship as we speak.

For the most part, though, everyone else has failed to crack the code, including BC. All-time, the Eagles are 0-13 against Maryland. Despite leaving everything on the field in last year’s title game, they came up three goals short of tying off one of the sport’s more incredible Cinderella stories. In 2014, Sarah Mannelly and Covie Stanwick piloted a second-half comeback in College Park, but BC ended up falling, 10-9, amid one of its best seasons in program history. The chances have been there—the results, on the other hand, have not.

Head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein is more familiar with the Terrapins’ pedigree than any other Eagle. After all, she played for Maryland back in the day. From 2002-05, Walker-Weinstein served as one of the Terrapins’ premier midfielders, reaching the Final Four once and captaining the team as a senior, all while being named a Tewaaraton award candidate on two separate occasions. As she said in the press conference following the 2017 National Championship, to take down Maryland “is like slaying a dragon.”

Although the Terrapins lost their first regular season game in 57 tries this past February, they are just as imposing as they were a year ago. Maryland boasts the fifth-highest scoring offense in the country, averaging 16.33 goals per game. It has eclipsed the 20-goal mark four times this season, recording the sixth-highest scoring margin in the NCAA. Reese’s offense is dictated by volume rather than precision. The Terrapins are logging 37.1 shots per contest—the third-most in the nation—but only have the 31st-highest shooting percentage in the country.

maryland lacrosse

They get out in front early, often leaving opponents in the dust before they can even find their footing. Maryland has recorded 197 first-half goals in 2018—51 more than they have scored in the latter portion of play. For the third year in a row, the attack is fueled by Megan Whittle’s production. Once again, the Glenwood, Md. native finds herself leading the team in scoring with 83 goals and 15 assists. Caroline Steele and Jen Giles aren’t too far behind, with 78 and 77 points, respectively. Like BC, the Terrapins have a number of scoring threats—aside from the three-headed attack mentioned above, Maryland has five other players with 20 or more goals on the season.

If the Eagles are to have any shot on Friday, they’re going to have to throw everything they have at the Terrapins. Just like last year’s title game, BC will have to go toe-to-toe with Reese and Co. in the first half. From there, it’s merely a race to the finish line. Only this time, beating the Terrapins doesn’t guarantee eternal glory—it’s simply a prerequisite to play in the National Championship.

Featured Image by Keith Carroll / Heights Editor

Graphics by Nicole Chan and Andy Backstrom / Heights Editor

May 24, 2018