TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

May 24, 2015 — Confidence vs. the yips

All you needed to understand why the University of Maryland won its 13th national women’s lacrosse championship was the first 12 minutes of the second half.

While the Terps turned a 6-3 halftime deficit into an 8-6 lead, North Carolina turned the ball over on six straight possessions. It wasn’t as if the Maryland ride was particularly effective in intercepting the ball or catching the Heels’ close defenders in possession for a check. The turnovers were basic: overthrown or underthrown passes, often with no opponent offering high pressure.

It was the sure sign of a tight team coming out of the locker room, which was bad news for North Carolina.

You see, Maryland has been a second-half team all season. They have come out of the interval against the likes of Princeton, Penn State, and Northwestern, and have turned close games or even halftime deficits around.

I was remarking late in the year that I might want to ghost-write head coach Cathy Reese’s halftime motivational speeches, because they must rank with the best ever spoken.

That is, until tonight’s final, when it was revealed that Reese allowed the players to motivate themselves. And that leadership sprang from their Tewaaraton Trophy holder, junior center Taylor Cummings.

“All right,” she said to her teammates. “We have 30 minutes left, and that will make or break our season.”

It worked. Cummings was massive in the draw circle, affording teammates enough of an edge to win the draw on the ground-ball pickup.

But it is a draw with about three minutes left that will leave people talking for a long time.

After a UNC goal brought the score to within 9-8, the two teams set for the center draw. As the umpire turned her back to the scorer’s table and placed the ball in between the two sticks, North Carolina tried for a late substitution. The air horn from the table official sounded, and UNC was penalized for an illegal substitution.

From that moment on, Carolina never saw the ball again. Maryland ran a perfect stall to end the game.

As much as Maryland deserves credit for closing out this championship, the UNC players can’t help but wonder how they could have improved their play in the second term. I have a feeling, however, that these two teams will be defining the sport for some time to come.

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