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.