May 23, 2012

WD1 Semifinal Preview: Tale of Two Rematches

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com

Alyssa Murray has scored 70 goals this season to lead the Orange. She was limited to one goal and one assist in Syracuse's regular season meeting with Florida on March 3.
© Matt Riley

The Division I NCAA women's lacrosse semifinals at Stony Brook, N.Y., on Friday will be a tale of two rematches: No. 4 Florida versus No. 1 Syracuse and No. 3 Maryland versus No. 2 Northwestern.

In Friday's first game (5:30 p.m. ESPN3.com), the Gators will have the chance to avenge a double-overtime 12-11 loss to the Orange on March 3. The second semifinal (8 p.m., ESPN3.com) will be a replay of the 2011 championship game, an 8-7 win for the Wildcats over the Terps.

Let's take a look and the "then" and "now" of these matchups.

Florida-Syracuse

Venue

Then: The Orange handed the Gators their only home loss of 2012 when they won in double overtime in front of 914 fans at Dizney Stadium. Since then, Florida has reeled off 15 straight wins with a 9.27 average margin of victory, and grabbed the top seed for the NCAA tournament.

Now: Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook University will be a new field for both teams. It's the first ever NCAA semifinal for the Gators; it is the third for the Orange. Syracuse most recently went to the final four in 2010 and lost, 14-5, to eventual national champion Maryland. Current Orange star attacker Michelle Tumolo was just a freshman in that game, but she scored two goals. Terps midfielder Caitlyn McFadden, now an assistant coach for Florida, was a senior midfielder for Maryland in the 2010 championship. She led all scorers with four goals. Gators head coach Mandee O'Leary said McFadden and fellow assistant Erica LaGrow have been instrumental in preparing the team for its first championship weekend.

"I think our team is excited, and I think that's a good thing," said O'Leary. "Our assistants, Caitlyn and Erica, have been there before as players, so they have helped the team along, keeping them grounded and focused."

Leading Scorers

Then: The Gator defense did a good job limiting Tumolo to just one goal and two assists and top scorer Alyssa Murray to one goal and one assist in the regular season match-up, although that freed up Syracuse senior midfielder Sarah Holden to score a hat trick. For Florida, Tewaaraton finalist Brittany Dashiell led the way with three goals and one assist.

Now: Murray has been an offensive superpower for the Orange, with 70 goals. Florida's goal leader is Richmond transfer Gabi Wiegand (46g), although the overall points leader is Kitty Cullen (45g, 23a).

Key Stat

Then: Saves. Florida won the stat battle in virtually every category: shots, ground balls, draws, turnovers and clears. Goalie play was the difference maker for Syracuse. Sophomore keeper Alyssa Constantino had 13 saves in the win for Syracuse; Florida junior goalie Mikey Meager had 10 stops. Constantino has an overall .504 save percentage, but she struggled in the quarterfinals versus North Carolina's tricky shooting. Head coach Gary Gait pulled her after 33:06 minutes and one save in favor of freshman Kelsey Richardson, who finished the game without making any stops. Gait has platooned Constantino and Richardson throughout this year, although Constantino has been the starter.

"If you had told me that if we had one save, we were going to beat North Carolina, I would have called you crazy," said Gait. "I think that's just how well the rest of our team played. They played unbelievable and stepped up and covered for our goalies. Hopefully our goalies will step up and rebound from that, and have a much better game and I'm pretty positive they will."

Another noteworthy stat from the regular season: The game had seven combined yellow cards and 45 combined fouls. With a championship berth on the line, things could get chippy.

Now: Draws. Syracuse freshman midfielder Kailah Kempney missed four games (including Florida) with a midseason knee injury, but the draw specialist has been back in fine form. She leads the team with 83 draw controls and averages 4.88 draw controls per game. Florida's Shannon Gilroy (3.85 DC per game) came off the bench in the regular season game and contributed a single draw control, but she has blossomed in the postseason, nabbing 11 draw controls in two NCAA tournament games. Gilroy leads the Gators overall with 77 draw controls. She has a considerable height advantage (5-foot-9) over Kempney (5-foot-4) too.

"She's an incredible piece to the puzzle. Without [Gilroy], I don't think we would be able to achieve the successes that we've had," said O'Leary. "She's integral on the draw, on the offensive end, through the midfield. She plays a huge part in our game."

Maryland-Northwestern

Katie Schwarzmann is Maryland's top scorer with 69 goals as the Terps present a differnet look from their 2011 NCAA championship matchup a year ago with Northwestern.
© Brian Schneider

Venue

Then: LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook, before 8,011 fans. The Terps had a 4-1 lead early in the first half, but the Wildcats clawed their way back to a win.

Now: Second verse, same as the first. Maryland and Northwestern will meet on the same field to decide who gets a berth in the 2012 final. In terms of home field advantage, the Wildcats have 14 New Yorkers on the roster; the Terps have three.

Leading Scorers

Then: Terp midfielder Beth Glaros, then a freshman, had a career-high four goals in the title game. Wildcat attacker Shannon Smith scored a team-high four goals in Northwestern's win.

Now: Glaros scored 22 goals for Maryland this season before suffering a season-ending ACL tear in April. Tewaaraton finalist Katie Schwarzmann is now Maryland's top scorer with 69g. She scored eight points (4g, 4a) in the Terps' 17-11 quarterfinal win over Loyola. Smith leads the Wildcats with 61 goals. Stopping Smith will be a priority for the Terps, but Maryland head coach Cathy Reese was wary of overcommitting to her at the expense of Erin Fitzgerald, Kara Mupo and Taylor Thornton.

"Their offense isn't just one player and that's what makes them so dangerous," said Reese. "We have to come up with a way to play really good team defense."

Key Stat

Then: Draws. The stats across the board were pretty even in the 2011 championship, but Northwestern had a 10-7 edge in draw controls, thanks to Alyssa Leonard (5 DC). Draws were tough for the Terps last year after Karri Ellen Johnson suffered a season-ending concussion in March. Maryland midfielder Brandi Jones contributed three draw controls in the title game loss, as did Camilla Hayes. Jones has graduated and Hayes, a 5-foot-11 English player who transferred to Maryland from Cal, has been buried in the 2012 lineup by freshman stars Kelly McPartland and Brooke Griffin.

Now: Ground Balls. Ground balls have been a rough spot for the Terps. Maryland has a slim 292-248 ground ball advantage over its opponents. Northwestern has won its collective ground ball battle by a much healthier margin, 367-268. GBs were a key stat in Maryland's regular season losses to North Carolina and Syracuse. Defender Iliana Sanza leads the Terps with 43 GBs; Thornton has 53 GBs for the Wildcats. The ground ball battle could be the key to victory for Northwestern. The Wildcats will be facing a healthy Johnson on the draw, so possession may not come as easily as it did in 2011.


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