CHESTER, Pennsylvania — Taylor Cummings and Megan Whittle led Maryland to its second straight NCAA women's lacrosse title and record-extending 12th overall, each scoring three goals in the Terrapins' 9-8 comeback victory over North Carolina on Sunday night.
Top-ranked Maryland (21-1) overcame a three-goal halftime deficit, the largest halftime deficit ever for a winning team in the NCAA title game, and Cummings and Whittle did most of the heavy lifting.
The duo scored four of Maryland's six second-half goals. Cummings was nearly unstoppable on draws, as Maryland controlled seven of them after halftime, with Cummings tracking down four herself.
"The draw is such a mind game," said Cummings, the tournament's most outstanding player. "There's a lot of push and pull and figuring each other out. In the second half we made it Maryland ball. The only way we were going to be able to come back was if we had the ball. All year long we said, 'It's 4 seconds of focus.' We did that and that's what got us back in the game."
Cummings finished with five points. She set up Brooke Griffin for a goal to cut the Tar Heels' lead to 6-5 at the 7:24 mark of the second half and scored the tying goal on pretty pass from Whittle a few minutes later.
With Cummings dominating in the faceoff circle, Whittle put the Terps ahead for good with consecutive goals.
"Megan Whittle is a great player," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. "She's a great scorer and a great dodger. But for her to come in on an offense where I was returning three first team All-Americans was a tough spot to be in. But, she did everything we asked, she learned a lot on how to be a part of a team offense. She's going to be a fun player to watch over the course of her career."
After Maria McCool scored her second goal of the game for North Carolina (18-4) to cut Maryland's lead back to one, Cummings finished off her hat trick.
Maryland avenged a double-overtime loss to North Carolina in the 2013 title game.
North Carolina pulled within a goal with a little more than 3 minutes remaining when Maggie Bill scored her third goal of the game, but the next draw never took place as possession was awarded to Maryland after North Carolina tried to make a late substitution. Despite efforts by Tar Heels coach Jenny Levy to call timeout, the officials instead awarded Maryland possession.
"We made too many mental errors in the second half," Bill said. "Against a team like Maryland you can't do that and expect to recover from it."
Included in the mix was junior goalie Megan Ward, who started the second half in place of all-tournament goalie Caylee Waters, a move often employed by Tar Heels coach Jenny Levy.
Ward made a couple of possession mistakes herself, once losing the ball out of bounds behind the net and another losing possession as she was lunging to get back to the goalie's circle.
Both mistakes turned into Maryland goals. And Levy lifted Ward after 13 minutes and put Waters back in the game, but the damage was already done.
"It was actually the clearing," Levy said. "Caylee tends to clear a little bit better and is a little bit bigger. I felt Meg was fine in the cage and then she started worrying about the clearing game and that started to get into her saving game, so we went back to Caylee."
North Carolina dominated the first half.
The Tar Heels scored the first two goals rather quickly, with Bill notching the opening goal just 15 seconds into the match, scoring a free-position goal on the game's first shot.
Two possessions later, Sam McGee sneaked out from behind the net and took a pass from Bill and deposited it into the net.
Maryland recovered to score three straight goals to take the lead.
Whittle and Cummings drew the Terps even and Erin Collins took a pass from Cummings and snapped it past goalie Caylee Waters to make it 3-2.
Waters thwarted two free-position shots from the Terrapins, stopping both Zoe Stukenberg and Collins from in close. But perhaps the biggest missed opportunity from Maryland came on a failed attempt during a breakaway with Waters caught in the midfield after advancing the ball and losing it out of bounds. However a pass from Griffin to Cummings was just out of reach, allowing the Tar Heels to dodge a major chance.
Bill tied it and Aly Messinger put the Heels ahead with a free-position marker.
Marie McCool took a pass from Bill, ducked a check and scored over the top of Maryland goalie Alex Fitzpatrick to make it 5-3 before Sydney Holman scored on a frantic final play of the half with 3.4 seconds to go to give North Carolina a three-goal lead at intermission.
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