The National Women's Hockey League is currently in its offseason following its sixth year of play, but things have been anything but normal over the past few weeks. A lot has transpired recently, and it appears as though this could be the tip of the iceberg.
In front of a record crowd of nearly 12,000, Maryland was able to redeem its loss in the title game last season by defeating Boston College to complete their undefeated run with a national championship.
The high-scoring title game also broke the record for most goals in a half, with 19, as Maryland was able to pull away from the Eagles after a 5-5 tie in the first half of the game. The 14th championship for the Terps came on the heels of losing a magical run just a year ago, where they fell to North Carolina, the eventual national champions.
"I think the most important part of all of it is they're such good people," said Maryland head coach Cathy Reese. "They care about their teammates. They love the people that surround them. They're always willing to help and checking in on people. I always tell them, too, there is more to life than lacrosse. Where we sit here on this big stage, and everyone is talking about wins and losses, these guys go on."
With the storybook ending for the Terps, the weekend was also more than that for women's lacrosse. The Final Four wasn't even supposed to be at Gillette Stadium until a few months ago, when it was relocated from North Carolina.
"We're trying to make these girls confident women to go out and change the world once they're done at BC," said BC head coach Acacia Walker. "I think it's something they'll remember forever. I think that maybe now they'll think that they're good, because I think they're so humble sometimes I have to shake them and be like you guys are great. Look at what you've done. Listen to the crowd. Half of that crowd, that's for you. I mean, it was cool. I'm excited for them."
Boston College made a Cinderella run of its own to end up playing for a title in practically its own backyard, topping the likes of Syracuse and USC en route to a surprise championship appearance. The Eagles were able to knock off fellow underdog Navy in a Friday night semifinal thriller to end up at Sunday's contest, their first-ever championship contest in program history.
Maryland, which completes its season 23-0, was contested throughout by the upstart Eagles, including a ten-point afternoon from junior Kenzie Kent, who was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.
"After I lost in the Frozen Four, I couldn't be more excited, for some reason this year more than others, to join the team," said Kent. "Obviously we lost today, but it's a cool experience, it's been amazing, especially with this team. It's been a really special one."
Kent made headlines in the Eagles' run to Gillette after leading the BC women's hockey team to the Frozen Four just two months previously. Her five-goal, five-assist performance on Sunday kept the Eagles close against Tewaaraton candidate defender Nadine Hadnagy.
"She's amazing," said Kent. "The first half she really shut me down. During halftime, I just had to pick up a little bit and go harder than I was before."
The Terps have never lost to the Eagles, going 13-0 in contests against their previous ACC rival.
Boston College will still return with plenty of talented players, including Kent and sophomore Sam Apuzzo, who found herself leading the nation in goals after scoring her 80th on Sunday.
In the end, however, it was Maryland who came out on top to erase some of the heartache from the end of last season.
"Coming to Maryland was so much more -- this is more than a lacrosse team," said senior Zoe Stuckenberg. "This is a family, and this was everything I ever dreamed or hoped of. This was way more. I love Maryland. I love everything about it. I love Cathy. I just can't speak highly enough of her. We're not just lacrosse players to her. I think that we're not lacrosse players to each other."
(Photo credit: MarylandWLAX/Twitter)
Filed under: lacrosse; NCAA; Boston college; maryland; kenzie kent; zoe stuckenberg; acacia walker; cathy reese
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