CHESTER, Pa. -- Maryland midfielder Taylor Cummings texted this to her mother prior to Sunday's NCAA lacrosse title game against North Carolina: "Breakfast, film, lunch, walk-through, chill, dinner, leave, win."
You could say it went that way, but not without the drama of the top-seeded Terrapins overcoming the biggest deficit in championship game history to rally past North Carolina 9-8 at PPL Park.
Maryland (21-1) won its 12th NCAA title behind hat tricks from Cummings (three goals, two assists) and freshman Megan Whittle, both unrattled despite their team trailing 6-3 at the break. The three-goal difference was the largest halftime deficit Maryland had to overcome all season.
"We showed so much heart and hustle. I think we exemplified what Maryland lacrosse really is in that second half," said Cummings, who was named the tournament's most outstanding player for the second year in a row and favored to repeat as Tawaaraton Award winner, given to the top player in the college game.
"Another epic battle with Maryland," said Tar Heels coach Jenny Levy, whose team held the Terrapins to a season-low in goals.
While this one didn't match the theater of two years ago when North Carolina survived triple overtime to win its first national title over an unbeaten Maryland team, the tension was high, particularly when North Carolina pulled within one after Maggie Bill's hat trick with 3 minutes, 2 seconds left.
But with Cummings and Sammy Jo Tracy poised for the draw, a late substitution by Levy gave Maryland possession, as the rule states teams cannot substitute once the draw is set. The Terrapins ran out the clock and plunged into a dog pile in front of keeper Alex Fitzpatrick, each Terp trying to touch a piece of the NCAA trophy.
"What a great day for the Terps," said Cathy Reese, presiding over Maryland's second straight national championship and her third overall as head coach. "We found a way to crawl our way back after the hole we dug ourselves in and pulled off a great victory."
The Tar Heels proved (18-4) the better team early.
Bill's free-position goal put North Carolina on top 1-0 just 15 seconds after the opening draw, and Bill assisted on Sam McGree's goal 2:17 later to make it 2-0.
The Terps tied it when Whittle earned her first score of the final four followed by Cummings' shot from the top of the fan. Ten minutes of scoreless lacrosse followed when Erin Collins gave Maryland its first edge, making good on Cummings' back-door pass for 3-2.
But the Terrapin spent the next 13:38 scoreless, while North Carolina went on a 4-0 run, capped off by Sydney Holman wrong footing Cummings with 3.6 seconds left for 6-3 at the break.
Reese had few words for the Terps in the locker room, allowing them to figure it out among themselves for the bulk of the 10 minutes.
"At that point, she can only do as much as she can on the sidelines, but it's really us," Cumming said. "In that moment we really pulled together and we were like, 'All right, we have 30 minutes left that will make or break our season.'"
Kelly McPartland ended the Maryland drought 4:03 into the period, and sloppy turnovers ignited the Terps' rally. Cummings fed Brooke Griffin for 6-5 and tied it following the fifth straight North Carolina turnover of the period.
Whittle's second of the night put Maryland ahead 7-6, its first lead since 3-2. A new keeper didn't stop the onslaught: Whittle's hat trick 1:47 later gave the Terps an 8-6 advantage, a 5-0 run.
"With every goal, we got a little more confident," Reese said.
Marie McCool's free-position goal brought the Tar Heels within one with 13:59 remaining, but Cummings' score gave her a hat trick to swing it back Maryland's way 9-7.
"In the second half, we just made too many mental errors," Bill said. "Against a team like Maryland, you can't really do that and recover easily."
Bill gave North Carolina new life after a Maryland turnover led her to score in transition. But the substitution foul cost the Tar Heels possession and another shot on offense.
Maryland fans celebrated another milestone for the most decorated program in the sport before fireworks ensued. The game drew 8,143 people, many of them wearing "Fear the turtle" garb.
In addition to six second-half turnovers, North Carolina was outdone in draw controls 7-2 in the period. The Tar Heels cleared only three of eight second-half balls.
Whittle, ranked the No. 1 recruit in the nation by Inside Lacrosse, finished with team-best 67 goals on the season. Cummings' 94 points and 33 assists this season are also team highs.
"I couldn't be happier as a senior to leave the program like this," Megan Douty said.
Preceding the Division I final, SUNY Cortland (22-1) captured its first national championship in its first appearance in the Division III title game, defeating Trinity 17-6. Midfielder Emma Hayes-Hurley, with two goals and two assists, was named most outstanding player.