You can't ask for much more than four overtime periods of spectacular defense in any game. In this national championship, it was thrilling, gut wrenching, and ultimately heartbreaking for Maryland.
Maryland and North Carolina had already played one thriller this season, a regular season game in College Park that the Terps won 14-13.
Maryland was once again victorious against their conference rival in the ACC championship, a game in which both teams were plagued by turnovers, though Maryland did a better job of taking advantage.
For the Terps, there was a lot on the line. A win would have given them their 11th national title in school history. They also would have finished the season at 23-0, giving the school it’s fifth perfect season and first since 2001. It was also one last chance for senior Tewaaraton finalists Alex Aust and Katie Schwarzmann to earn their second NCAA title.
North Carolina scored the first three goals of the contest and freshman attacker Aly Messinger had a hat trick within the first twelve minutes of play.
Maryland fought back to a 5-4 deficit by dominating the Tar Heels on draw controls, but turnovers allowed North Carolina to take a 9-6 lead into halftime.
It took a few minutes, but Maryland drew first blood in the second half. From there, they went on an offensive tear, scoring five unanswered goals in a period of 7:36. North Carolina answered with three straight goals of their own to take a 12-11 lead with nine minutes remaining.
Alex Aust scored the tying goal with 3:51 left and though Maryland had another late possession, nothing came of it and the fans got some free lacrosse.
The first overtime in lacrosse consists of two 3-minute periods, neither of which is sudden death. That was unimportant, however, as neither team scored and the second overtime began. From then on, it was sudden victory.
Senior goalkeeper Kasey Howard had just one save for Maryland in regulation, but recorded four spectacular saves in overtime. Unfortunately, she was unable to deflect the final shot and freshman midfielder Sammy Jo Tracy became the hero for the Tar Heels, lifting her team to its first national title.
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.
A stadium record crowd of over 2300 fans was on hand to watch Maryland host North Carolina in a battle of the nation’s top ranked teams.
After the Tar Heels knocked our men’s and women’s basketball squads out of their ACC Tournaments, it was nice to see some success against the Carolina Blue.
One of the country’s best rivalries, the game certainly lived up to its hype. The Heels scored a lot of their goals on long possessions, while the Terps tended to strike quickly. There was never a dull moment
The defining play came with just over 20 minutes left in the game. The Terps had scored three straight goals to take an 11-9 lead. North Carolina called their last time out. UNC also called a time out when Maryland took a 4-2 lead with 12 minutes left in the first half, and the Tar Heels scored three unanswered goals coming out of it.
This time, exiting North Carolina’s time out, freshman midfielder Taylor Cummings won the draw and took the ball all the way to the net by herself, giving Maryland a 3-point lead.
North Carolina made a game of it, but came up a goal short as the Terps improved to 20-10 all-time against their conference rival.
Maryland is now 14-0 on the season, with home games against Princeton and Dartmouth then a road contest at Virginia Tech left before postseason play begins.
UNC’s loss was their first since a 5-3 season-opening loss to Florida.
The Terps clinched the ACC regular season championship with the win and are looking for their 5th consecutive ACC tournament title. They beat North Carolina for each of the past three.