North Carolina grabbed a 4-1, halftime lead against Northwestern on Friday. About three minutes into the second half, they added a goal to their lead. The game was never close and the Tar Heels cruised past the Wildcats with an 11-4 win.
Maryland paid its fans no such favors. The Terps crushed Syracuse in their February meeting. Despite losing their captain, Michelle Tumolo, to an ACL injury since then, the Orange gave the #1 ranked team in the nation quite a scare.
The Terps led for the entire first half. It was close throughout but Maryland scored two goals in the final 35 seconds of the half to grab a seemingly comfortable 7-4 lead at the break.
Syracuse began their second-half attack early, when Amy Cross scored just 17 seconds in. A strong attack paired with shoddy defense by the Terps eventually allowed ‘Cuse to take a 10-9 lead with a little more than 18 minutes left.
After the feverish pace to the first 15 minutes of the second half, at which time the game was tied at 10, defense took over. Maryland struggled to help Kasey Howard defend the goal early in the half, but finally got their positioning straight. Alex Aust proved a strong defensive presence by causing two turnovers.
Brooke Griffin scored the winning goal off an assist by Katie Schwarzmann with less than three minutes left. Maryland escaped the thriller to advance to the school’s 17th NCAA title game and their third in the last four years.
They will face North Carolina, who is appearing in the title game for just the second time in school history.
It will be the third meeting between the two conference rivals this season. Maryland won a close contest in College Park during the regular season, then beat them a little more comfortably in the ACC title game in Chapel Hill a month ago. North Carolina now gets one more crack at the Terps, this time at a neutral site.
The game is slated for an 8:00 p.m. start on Sunday and will be televised on ESPNU – note that it is blacked out nation-wide on ESPN3, so it is only available on ESPNU.
Villanova, PA will host the women’s lacrosse Final Four this weekend, with the semifinals on Friday and the championship Sunday at 8:00 p.m.
Northwestern (19-2) will try to make it nine consecutive national championship appearances when they take on the ACC runners-up North Carolina Tar Heels (16-3) at 5:00 p.m. North Carolina’s first and only title game appearance was in 2009.
Following that game, the Lady Terps (21-0) will face Syracuse (18-3). The Orange appeared in the national championship for the first time in school history last year. Maryland’s last appearance was 2011 and their last title came in 2010.
Maryland is coming off a 14-9 victory over Duke on Saturday, their second victory against their conference rival this season. Senior Tewaaraton finalist Alex Aust had a stellar game in the victory, helping the Terps to their fifth consecutive national semifinals. She led the team in goals with five, in assists with two, and in ground balls with four.
Sophomore Brooke Griffin scored three goals to help the offense and Freshman Taylor Cummings turned in a fine defensive effort, causing three turnovers.
The Terps visited Syracuse in February and defeated the Orange 19-11. So far this season, the two teams play a fairly similar style. Both teams score roughly 15 goals per game and give up around 8 goals per game.
Syracuse is slightly more aggressive, taking a few more shots per game. But Maryland has a higher SOG (shots on goal) percentage on offense and gives up a lower percentage on defense than the Orange.
Game time is 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and you can watch for free on ESPN3. The earlier game will also be available.
Maryland’s undefeated run continues to grow, but the team looks as focused as ever. The women’s lacrosse team captured its fifth consecutive ACC Tournament title two weeks ago in Chapel Hill. They beat Virginia 13-9 in the semifinal before defeating UNC in their home stadium by a score of 12-8, a much more comfortable margin than their 14-13 home victory over the Tar Heels just a few weeks earlier.
After a weekend of rest, the Lady Terps figure to be fresh for the NCAA Tournament. They have advanced to the semifinals each of the past four years, but have not won the National title since 2010. A title this season would be the school’s 11th. Northwestern has the second most in NCAA history, with all seven of their titles coming in the last eight years.
Maryland has no shortage of star power, but they have been led well all season by seniors Alex Aust and Katie Schwarzmann, both of whom were named finalists for the 2013 Tewaaraton Award yesterday. Schwarzmann won the award, given annually to the best men’s and women’s lacrosse players in the nation, in 2012 and is the first Terp to be named a finalist for the award three times. The winner will be announced on May 30.
With preparations nearly complete for, hopefully, a deep tournament run, the only thing left is for Maryland’s first opponent to be determined. Stony Brook and Towson play in College Park tonight at 7 p.m., with the winner to stick around for a noon matchup with the Terps on Sunday.