The Washington Post
In lacrosse, Terrapins are a dual power
The day after they won the national championship last season at Gillette Stadium, Megan Whittle, her Maryland women’s lacrosse teammates and Coach Cathy Reese watched anxiously while their male counterparts played for the NCAA title at the same venue.
The Terrapins men were making their third consecutive appearance in the national championship game, with the tension even more elevated after they had dropped the previous two by a combined six goals, including an overtime heartbreaker in 2016.
When the clock reached 0:00 in Foxborough, Mass., and Maryland had secured a 9-6 victory over Ohio State for its first national championship since 1975, Whittle recalled being overjoyed, perhaps even more so than when she had celebrated the
third title in four years.
“Everything kind of culminated in this huge moment for the 2017 Terps, and it was just so exciting,” she said. “I probably was more excited for them than us. Like, it was the coolest feeling. For another chance for the both of us to compete in the Final Four, compete for another national championship has been great.”
The Maryland men and women head into this weekend’s NCAA tournament semifinals within reach of the rarest of double doubles, seeking to become what is believed to be the first pair of teams from a Power Five conference program to win consecutive national championships in any sport.
That the Terrapins are on the verge of such an accomplishment underscores a level of consistency over the past decade unmatched by any other school in a sport featuring both men’s and women’s participants.
“I think it’s just really great the dynasties of programs that Maryland has for both men and women,” said Whittle, who this season became the Terrapins’ career leader in goals. “It’s great momentum going into the Final Four.”
The top-seeded Terrapins women (20-1) are making their 10th straight trip to the national semifinals, two short of matching the record of 12 in a row from 1990 through 2001. Maryland will face fourth-seeded Boston College (21-1) on Friday night in Stony Brook, N.Y., in a rematch of last year’s championship game, a 16-13 triumph.
The top-seeded men (14-3) will play No. 4 Duke (15-3) on Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium, marking the Terrapins’ seventh national semifinal berth in eight years, the most prosperous stretch in program history since the NCAA tournament field expanded to 16 in 2003.
It’s the first matchup between the contentious rivals since 2014, the season before the Terrapins left the ACC to join the Big Ten.
“We get to see their student-athletes all the time, which is pretty cool,” men’s lacrosse Coach John Tillman said of the women’s team. “So we’re big fans of theirs, and they are awesome. They set such a high standard. We’re trying to keep up with them. I told Cathy she’s going to have to get sized for toe rings because she’s running out of fingers for all those championships she’s won.”
There have been a handful of schools in recent years to win men’s and women’s national championships in the same sport in the same year: Stanford in soccer in 2017, Oregon in indoor track and field in 2016 and both Oregon squads in outdoor track and field in 2015. It even happened in lawomen’s crosse in 2016, when North Carolina swept the titles — with a victory over Maryland in each championship game.
Both teams going back-to-back, however, is another matter.
As far as national semifinal appearances go, Connecticut’s basketball teams have come the closest — and it’s still a distant second — to Maryland lacrosse since the turn of the century. The Huskies’ men and women reached the Final Four simultaneously four times in 10 years beginning in 2004.
More recently, the North Carolina men’s and women’s soccer teams reached the national semifinals together three times since 2008.
“It’s really fun to be here with the men,” Reese said. “Last year was pretty cool because we both were at Gillette, but this year being at different sites, you’re just fired up for our men. Our men’s coaching staff is fantastic, and [ Tillman] jokes about me, but c’mon, I’m lucky to work in an office next to him every day.”
Reese is seeking her fifth national championship since she took over the Terrapins in 2007, replacing Cindy Timchal after she departed for the same position at Navy. Reese won four national championships as a player for the Terrapins and three more serving as an assistant at Maryland under Timchal.
Tillman, meanwhile, has Maryschool land in a fifth straight Final Four and chasing the first repeat national championship in program history.
The only other comparable era in College Park for men’s lacrosse came during the 1970s under Bud Beardmore, who directed the Terrapins to nine straight berths in the national semifinals when the NCAA tournament comprised eight teams.
The Maryland men’s and women’s programs also share the distinction of each having a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award for the second year in a row. No other school has had dual finalists in that time for the award presented to the most outstanding player in college lacrosse.
Whittle, a senior attack, is a favorite to win the women’s award, with senior midfielder Connor Kelly a candidate on the men’s side. Last season, Maryland swept the Tewaaraton Awards when attackman Matt Rambo and midfielder Zoe Stukenberg each won as seniors.
“I think, honestly, we’re sort of playing catch-up, really, as the men’s team because the women are just, they’re spectacular,” Kelly said. “They’re so driven, so it’s awesome to see, but to see both programs go to the Final Four the past four years, it’s been amazing. Obviously they deserve every bit of it. They’re the ultimate competitors.”