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.
The Lady Terps played terrific offense, and even better defense, on the way to steamrolling the Stony Brook Seawolves and earning their 20th consecutive victory to start the season.
Redshirt Sophomore Brooke Griffin was the star on offense, scoring 4 of Maryland’s 11 goals. The Lady Terps’ Tewaaraton finalists pitched in on offense as well, with Alex Aust scoring two goals and assisting on two more, and Katie Schwarzmann adding a goal and an assist of her own.
Senior Iliana Sanza led the defense with three caused turnovers and three ground balls, helping the Terps hold Stony Brook to a season-low 3 goals in the game.
Duke will visit Maryland’s Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex for the second time this season when the two teams meet in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals Saturday at noon. Maryland won the first match, 15-6 back in February.
After losing four games in the regular season, including a three-game losing streak from March 28 through April 12, and losing to Virginia in the ACC Tournament quarterfinals, Duke had to play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament while Maryland enjoyed a bye to the second round. It took two overtimes for them to get past Princeton, but they enjoyed an easier victory against Navy in the second round.
Duke was once a powerhouse in women’s lacrosse, but Maryland and North Carolina have taken over the ACC in recent years. Still, they are a competitive bunch and will not make it easy for Maryland to advance to the semifinals in Villanova, PA next Friday, where the winner will face either Florida or Syracuse.
On the topic of North Carolina, they also face an ACC rival, Virginia, in their quarterfinal of the NCAA Tournament. The winner of their match will face Penn State or Northwester, who has won the last two national titles and seven of the last eight.