After the Maryland women's lacrosse team escaped Stony Brook in the NCAA quarterfinals last weekend, goalkeeper Megan Taylor made a promise to coach Cathy Reese as she walked off the field.
"She's like, 'I'm going to be much better next game,'" Reese said. "That's what she said. And we're like, 'OK.'"
Taylor made 10 saves to stymie Penn State in Maryland's 20-10 semifinal victory at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Friday. It was one of many improvements the Terps made on their performance over the span of just six days.
Now, they have to draw on that progress one more time as they face Boston College on Sunday in the national championship game.
Midfielder Zoe Stukenberg joked about the Maryland's blood pressure taking "a little bit of a toll" during its narrow 13-12 victory over Stony Brook. However, she insisted it was a good experience entering the Final Four, as it put the onus on the Terps (22-0) to figure out how to successfully execute "the little things."
"We did a great job of handling the Stony Brook game with a lot of poise and people played beyond their years in that game," Stukenberg said. "This week in practice we kind of were able to be thankful and be proud of the way that we pulled that win out."
Taylor's seven saves against the Seawolves marked her second-lowest tally this season, only higher than the six she made against Michigan when she only played in the first half.
But after conceding 12 goals to Penn State in April in a game star attackers Madison Carter and Steph Lazo combined for 11 points, Taylor held the Nittany Lions to just 10 scores. And Carter and Lazo mustered three points, as Taylor stuffed them from point-blank range multiple times.
"She's just a stud and she anchors our defense," Reese said. "She's the best goalie in the nation. She was a huge part of our success today."
Maryland also struggled on the offensive end against Stony Brook. The Seawolves played narrow and didn't allow space for the Terps to attack the goal.
Against Penn State, though, the squad received a playmaking boost from a midfielder who'd been below full strength over the past couple of contests.
Jen Giles, coming off a hamstring injury suffered in the final game of the regular season, delivered her most explosive post-setback performance, driving through the defense and finding cutters to notch four goals and four assists.
While Giles' standout performance drew praise from teammates, she felt her effort came from the play of the people around her.
"I just kind of take it one step at a time," Giles said. "There's no pressure on one player to step up and lead the team to a win. Every game, everyone contributes."
Throughout the season, Maryland has emphasized the importance of collective growth over personal accolades, even as the Terps have captured a host of individual honors.
On Sunday, it'll be with a national championship on the line.
"One of my main things is we really focus on Maryland," Reese said. "What do we need to do to be better … what do we need to do to step on the field and play the best Maryland lacrosse that we've played this season."