Terps Keep Title Defense Alive
In their team's 15-6 NCAA quarterfinal win over Princeton, Maryland women's lacrosse players Sarah Mollison and Katie Schwarzmann combined for eight goals. At the postgame press conference, they had squeeze into one chair, because there weren't enough at the table. They swung their arms over each other's shoulders.
"Friendship!" crowed Mollison as she grinned at her teammate, whose four goals and two assists boosted the Terps in their third consecutive final four. No. 1 seeded Maryland now 20-1 and will play the winner of the Duke-Florida game on Friday at Stony Brook University in the NCAA semifinal.
"That (the semifinals) was the goal from the beginning of the season, to put ourselves in a position to win a championship," said Terps head coach Cathy Reese.
Spirits were high in College Park, where Maryland rallied from an early 3-1 deficit and overcame the excellent play of Princeton goalie Erin Tochihara (14 saves) to keep their title defense alive.
The Tigers dominated draw controls early and slowed the Terps' dangerous fast-break offense, but Maryland went on a seven-goal run over 7:05 late in the first period and never looked back. Mollison scored the final three goals of the run in just 30 seconds, once on a crease roll and twice on quick possessions off the draw.
"We had one goal in 21 minutes, and that's just not like us," Reese said. "We needed to believe in ourselves and to have confidence."
Schwarzmann took over in the second period, dodging past the Princeton defense on the left side of the field to add an unassisted goal at 21:23, kicking off a six-goal run. Maryland's early troubles were minimized by a career day from junior goalie Brittany Dipper (15 saves).
"Maryland's a great team and went on their runs," said Princeton head coach Chris Sailer. "Dipper just had our number."
Junior attacker Cassie Pyle led Princeton with two goals and an assist, both in the first half. With the exception of two free position goals, Dipper and the Maryland defense shut out the Tigers in the second half.
Maryland romped in the second period, in which Schwarzmann scored all four of her goals. Laura Merrifield and Kristy Black also contributed hat tricks in the win.
"They always have me on edge. They're always attacking the cage and it keeps everyone on their toes," Tochihara said.
If their opponents are feeling edgy, Maryland seems remarkably relaxed and happy as it heads deeper into the postseason, and the pressure to defend its title mounts. Mollison's five-point day pushed her career total to 266, passing alum Alison Comito to become fifth on the Terps' all-time scoring list. Mollison is now chasing current assistant coach Quinn Carney (272) for fourth on the all-time list, but the Australian team captain shut down all talk of statistical records and individual achievements.
"It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter," she said, interrupting a reporter's question about the points record. "We're going to the final four. That's all that matters."