James Madison’s 2018 NCAA Title ‘Gave Our Sport Life’

James Madison’s 2018 NCAA Title ‘Gave Our Sport Life’


Rebecca Tooker, a senior defender in 2018 for the national champion Dukes, started all 23 games.

Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe remembers the flood of emotions she and her James Madison Dukes felt the morning of May 27, 2018.

“You go through all of those emotions. It’s a wave,” Klaes-Bawcombe said. “It’s your ability to control it. For us, we talk about butterflies. Nerves mean you care.”

The task mere hours ahead was a matchup against Boston College in the NCAA championship game. Boston College was coming off a championship loss the previous year to Maryland. James Madison was the upstart mid-major playing Cinderella. Either way, one of these programs would claim its first NCAA title.

JMU came back from a two-goal deficit which resulted from a four-goal BC run to win 16-15. After Tess Chandler put the Eagles ahead 10-8, the Dukes scored four unanswered for a 12-10 lead and eventually led 14-11.

“I can remember being exhausted,” Klaes-Bawcombe said, laughing.

The Dukes celebrated in the misty conditions at Stony Brook’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. Senior defender Rebecca Tooker posed for pictures kissing the trophy. Everyone got a chance to take home a piece of the net. Still riding a high on the way back to campus in Harrisonburg, Va., JMU continued celebrating.

“The whole town was here at campus waiting for us with signs and banners,” Klaes-Bawcombe said. “Local TV was there. These were all things that our program doesn’t necessarily experience.”

The magic seemed to start for the Dukes during the season’s first game, a 15-14 double-overtime victory that caught many in the women’s lacrosse world by surprise. UNC had previously handled JMU with relative ease, although the Dukes had begun chipping away at the deficit in the years leading up to 2018.

Even that win didn’t propel JMU too highly up the rankings, and Klaes-Bawcombe used it as bulletin board material. If the Dukes were going to be respected, they’d have to earn it.

“We always had that chip on our shoulder to just keep proving how special that team was,” she said.

James Madison certainly had the talent. Eventual Tewaaraton finalist Kristen Gaudian was flanked on offense by Hanna Haven, Haley Warden, Elena Romesburg and Katie Kerrigan. All five posted at least 57 points, but it was Gaudian (96 points, 80 goals) who stirred the drink.

She burst onto the scene in 2018, upping her final point total by 36 from 2017. As defenses worked to gameplan for Gaudian, Warden, Romesburg and Kerrigan were left matched up with a team’s second, third or fourth defenders — not great matchups for the opponent.

“People just bounced off of her,” Klaes-Bawcombe said of Gaudian. “She was a huge threat from the 8-meter. Because she drew so much attention, it allowed for our other goal-scorers to draw [better matchups], and those types of players couldn’t handle our attackers.”

Ever since the final horn sounded in that contest, Klaes-Bawcombe has used it as a sounding board to show that mid-majors can compete. It doesn’t have to be the “same old, same old,” as she puts it.

“I feel like it gave our sport life,” she said.

Fans can relive James Madison’s triumph Sunday evening at 8 p.m. (ET) on ESPNU as part of the network’s collection of men’s and women’s lacrosse championship games this Memorial Day Weekend. You can check out the rest of the schedule below.

“There’s a lot of pride in what we did,” Klaes-Bawcombe said. “We made that happen.”

The below broadcasts are all scheduled for Sunday, May 24, on ESPNU. All times Eastern.

Syracuse vs. Maryland, 2014 NCAA championship game

The Terps captured their first national crown since 2010 behind five goals from Beth Glaros, the lone senior starter, in a 15-12 win. Taylor Cummings, Brooke Griffin and Kristen Lamon each scored three goals, and Cummings added eight draw controls.

2 p.m.
North Carolina vs. Maryland, 2015 NCAA championship game

Maryland made it two straight titles with this 9-8 win over the Tar Heels. The Terps overcame the biggest halftime deficit in championship game history, overcoming a 6-3 hole to win. Cummings and Megan Whittle each scored three goals.

4 p.m.
North Carolina vs. Maryland, 2016 NCAA championship game

UNC bounced back in this rematch of the previous title game, earning a 13-7 win for the second national championship in program history. Aly Messinger notched six points, tying a career high, and Megan Ward made a career-high 14 saves.

6 p.m.
Boston College vs. Maryland, 2017 NCAA championship game

Maryland capped a 23-0 season with a 16-13 win over upstart Boston College. This contest was tied at 5 at halftime, but Maryland opened the second half on a 5-0 run to build a lead. Caroline Steele posted six goals and one assist to help overcome a five-goal, five-assist game from BC’s Kenzie Kent.

8 p.m.
Boston College vs. James Madison, 2018 NCAA championship game

As reference above, James Madison overcame its mid-major status to hoist the first national title in program history. The sides traded goals in the final three-plus minutes of JMU’s 16-15 win, but the Dukes never surrendered the lead after Elena Romesburg scored for an 11-10 lead with 17:21 remaining.

10 p.m.
Boston College vs. Maryland, 2019 NCAA championship game

In a rematch of the 2017 national championship game, Maryland again came out on the winning end, 12-10. Kali Hartshorn gave the Terps the lead for good about 11 minutes into the game, but BC made things interesting by scoring two straight late in the game, cutting the deficit to two goals. The Eagles couldn’t make it closer, marking their third straight loss in a title game.



Time (ET)




May 24 Noon Syracuse vs. Maryland W 2014
  2 p.m. North Carolina vs. Maryland W 2015
  4 p.m. North Carolina vs. Maryland W 2016
  6 p.m. Boston College vs. Maryland W 2017
  8 p.m. Boston College vs. JMU W 2018
  10 p.m. Boston College vs. Maryland W 2019
May 25 Noon North Carolina vs. Maryland M 2016
  2 p.m. Maryland vs. Denver M 2015
  4 p.m. Notre Dame vs. Duke M 2014
  6 p.m. Ohio State vs. Maryland M 2017
  8 p.m. Duke vs. Yale M 2018
  10 p.m. Yale vs. Virginia M 2019