The press conference after the Maryland women's lacrosse team's NCAA tournament semifinal loss to Boston College featured red eyes and a palpable sense of disappointment.
Maryland came just a few plays short of advancing to the national title game — and for a program that had played in the past five championships and won three, ending the 2018 season in the final four was a shock.
"We end the season having lost two games by a total of three goals," coach Cathy Reese said. "That's a pretty good season."
Still, two losses is more than the Terps suffered in the previous two seasons combined.
While Maryland lost a handful of contributors from its undefeated 2017 campaign — including Tewaaraton Award winner Zoe Stukenberg and National Defender of the Year Nadine Hadnagy — the team was expected to continue its dominance.
Reese praised the development of her defense, where the team had most of its turnover during the offseason. It finished as a top-20 defense in the country, allowing an average of 9.91 goals per game and holding opponents to five goals or fewer in four games.
"This group was young and we were tested early," Reese said. "It's not about just the wins and losses at the end of the season, or even throughout — it's about what we're doing to get better."
In the semifinals against the Eagles, however, the Terps allowed 15 goals, including two in a row to attacker Sam Apuzzo to break a 13-13 tie in the final 10 minutes.
The end of the season means the end of the Megan Whittle era at Maryland. The Glenwood native led the team in scoring in each of her four years in College Park. She and the rest of the senior class lifted nine championship trophies: four Big Ten regular season, three Big Ten tournament and two national titles.
"She's an amazing person [and] an amazing player," midfielder Jen Giles said. "We're absolutely going to miss her next year. … She's had such an amazing career and obviously will mark history with all her records."
Whittle holds Maryland's all-time scoring record and is second in NCAA history with 298 career goals.
"It's everything I wanted when I committed here when I was 15," Whittle said. "This is what I wanted, is to be able to kind of etch my name in history and be a part of this program and just have my name included amongst the greats."
The Terps will return six Inside Lacrosse All-Americans — Giles, attackers Caroline Steele and Kali Hartshorn, defenders Julia Braig and Lizzie Colson and goalkeeper Megan Taylor. Braig was the Big Ten Defender of the Year, and Taylor earned Big Ten Goaltender of the Year honors.
Colson, attacker Brindi Griffin and midfielder Grace Griffin all took on bigger roles this year. Along with Hartshorn, they should continue to be key contributors next season.
So, though they'll be following in the footsteps of a group that enjoyed a dynastic run, the Terps show no sign of slowing down.
"Being able to do that at Maryland as well is something really special, because every team we play plays their best game against us," Whittle said. "To be able to still do what I've done and do what my senior class has done and win all these games, these titles, these championships is incredible."