During the Maryland women's lacrosse team's 20-0 start to the season, the squad never trailed at halftime. So, when they found themselves behind Stony Brook, 7-6, at half and then down, 12-11, with under four minutes remaining on Saturday, it was unfamiliar territory.
But in front of their home crowd, the No. 1 seed Terps scored twice in the final three minutes and eighteen seconds to secure a place in the NCAA tournament semifinals at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, with a 13-12 victory over the No. 8 seed Seawolves.
Eight different Maryland players scored with midfielder Zoe Stukenberg and attacker Taylor Hensh leading the way with hat tricks. The Terps also outdid the Seawolves, 19-7, on draw controls, winning seven of the last nine to aid their comeback effort.
"The draw was a strength today and we needed it," coach Cathy Reese said. "Every possession matters, especially against a team that was finding good looks."
But Maryland struggled from the first whistle. Despite possessing the ball for much of the opening seven minutes, the Seawolves took a 2-1 lead thanks to three early saves from goalkeeper Anna Tesoriero.
Though they controlled six of the first seven draws, the Terps (21-0) faltered against the nation's top-ranked scoring defense. A stretch of clinical finishing from Stony Brook (20-2) gave it a 5-1 first-half advantage.
The Terps called a timeout after Stony Brook's fourth score and quietly listened as they received instructions from coaches. Twenty yards away, meanwhile, the Stony Brook players jumped up and down, screaming in excitement after dominating the nation's top-ranked team in the early stages.
But Maryland ended the half on a 5-2 run capped by a goal at the buzzer from Stukenberg. The Terps trailed, 7-6, entering the break.
Still, Stony Brook continued to edge Maryland at the beginning of the second half. The Seawolves opened the second-half scoring and held the Terps without a goal for the first 13 minutes of the period.
Maryland took a timeout trailing, 11-7, but instead of instructing the players, Reese delegated the speaking duties to Stukenberg and defender Nadine Hadnagy
"There's only so much you can do when you're in this type of game where it just feels like nothing's on," Stukenberg said. "The way that everyone kind of picked it up and showed how much they wanted it was what gave everyone the spark to finish out the game the way we wanted.
With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Hensh drew a free position and dished to attacker Caroline Steele, who tied the contest 12-12. The score marked the first time since the opening five minutes that the Terps were level.
So, as Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" rang on the speakers, delirium ensued on the Maryland bench. A Hensh goal one minute later, which gave the Terps the win along with their only lead of the contest, set off wilder celebrations.
All three of Hensh's goals came with under 15 minutes to go as she was able to find space that the Terps hadn't been able to exploit earlier in the contest.
"I was cutting harder, probably harder than I was in the first half," Hensh said. "I was able to get them on my back, Jen [Giles] and Zoe were able to see me open and I could just finish today."
Steele spiked the ball into the ground as the final horn went off and the Terps solidified their spot in the NCAA semifinals. As the Terps sprinted to celebrate with goalkeeper Megan Taylor, Stony Brook players crumpled to the ground
Maryland advanced to their ninth consecutive final four and will face the winner of Princeton and Penn State on Friday.
"You could see our confidence," Stukenberg said. "You could see the way that everyone on the field believes in each other and the way our sideline never gave up. Our sideline believed in us, our coaches believed in us, even if we didn't perform our absolute best."