STONY BROOK, N.Y. — The Maryland women's lacrosse team was in dire straits in Friday's final four against Boston College when attacker Caroline Steele earned a free position shot with about four minutes remaining.
The junior converted more than half of her free position opportunities this season, and a successful shot would've pulled the Terps within one goal of the Eagles, giving them a chance at a late comeback to reach their sixth consecutive national title game.
But Steele sent her shot wide, and the Eagles took over possession. She picked up a yellow card shortly after and took a seat on the sideline, removing her face goggles and putting her head in her hands.
The No. 4-seed Eagles easily killed the final minutes of their 15-13 win over the top-seeded Terps, who fell short of the national championship game for the first time since 2012 as a result of the back-and-forth battle with nine lead changes and eight ties.
"This is a play here or there that could have gone either way," coach Cathy Reese said. "These are two really, really good teams that came out and battled it out tonight, and someone's got to win and someone's got to lose."
The teams were tied at 13 when Boston College attacker Sam Appuzo scored consecutive goals to go up 15-13 with 7:26 to play.
Maryland never got back even, and the Eagles avenged their loss to the Terps in last year's national championship.
"While yes it [was] motivating coming into this game after having lost to them last year, I think it is really important to remember that we are a new team and this was a different year," Boston College goalkeeper Lauren Daly said. "That was what really motivated us, more so than a comeback from last year."
Maryland secured the 2017 national championship with a 16-13 win over the former ACC foe, but this year it met the Eagles in the national semifinal. The Terps won their final four game last year by 10 goals, and after they jumped out to a 3-0 lead less than three minutes into Friday's game, it seemed they could have another blowout win ahead of them.
But the Eagles went on a five-goal run in the middle of the first half to erase Maryland's 6-2 lead.
"We can get ahead of ourselves," midfielder Jen Giles said. "We just need to buckle down in those situations and really make a big stop or put our foot down and score a goal in those because when the momentum shifts it's really hard to stop that. … We just really needed to step up and make a stop and unfortunately we weren't able to."
From there, the teams exchanged goals for the rest of the half. Like their last matchup, the game was tied at halftime.
Neither team secured a multiple-goal lead in the second half until Apuzzo's game-winning run.
Apuzzo ended the game with four goals and 10 draw controls. Boston College led Maryland in shots on goal and draw controls, two areas in which the Terps had excelled this season.
Boston College will face James Madison on Sunday or the national championship, while the Terps deal with the aftermath of an uncharacteristically early tournament exit.
"Losing is not fun for anyone," Reese said. "I don't think any of us were ready for that. You never are. I'm just proud of what they've been able to accomplish this year. … It stings, but I'm fortunate to work with great coaches and to coach some amazing women."