May 22, 2013

Then and Now: WD1 Semifinals Are a Pair of Rematches

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Since North Carolina and Northwestern last met, freshman Meg Ward (above) has overtaken senior Lauren Maksym as the Tar Heels' starter in net.
© Peyton Williams

Change is the only constant, in life and in Division I women's lacrosse. The two NCAA semifinals on Friday will be rematches from earlier in the season. But a rematch isn't necessarily a replay.

"You really have to look at it with fresh eyes," Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. "Good teams are always evolving, and all four [semifinal] teams have evolved all year long."

The No. 2 seed Wildcats will play No. 3 North Carolina in the first semifinal at 5 p.m. on May 24 at Villanova Stadium. The Tar Heels defeated Northwestern 11-8 on Feb. 22.

Amonte Hiller's semifinal opposition concurred with her pre-game thoughts.

"The game itself challenges you to be the best you can be and the opponent is part of that," North Carolina coach Jenny Levy said. "There's a lot of satisfaction of going against the best and doing what you can in that moment."

In the second semifinal, slated for 7:30 p.m., No. 4 Syracuse will get a second shot at No. 1 Maryland. The Terps beat the Orange 19-11 back on Feb. 17.

Let's take a look at the then and now of these two matchups. Both semifinal games will air on ESPN3.com with the championship broadcast at 8 p.m. ET Sunday on ESPNU.

North Carolina vs. Northwestern

LEADING SCORERS

Then (Feb. 22)

For North Carolina, junior attacker Abbey Friend had a hat trick in the three-goal win. For Northwestern, junior midfielder Alyssa Leonard had two goals, plus an astonishing 12 draw controls. Currently, Leonard has 303 career draw controls, best in Wildcats' history and fourth on the NCAA's all-time list. Leonard is currently chasing Northwestern assistant Hillary Fratzke for the No. 3 spot. Fratkze had 327 draw controls during her career at Towson.

"Alyssa Leonard is special," Levy said. "I've seen her a lot on film throughout the years. She's really very good at what she does. Her sense for the ball when it goes up is exceptional. She has separated herself even form the great ones."

Now

Friend and fellow attacker Kara Cannizzaro, who is a Tewaaraton Award finalist, have been on a tear in the postseason, combining for 17 points in two NCAA tournament games. Overall, the Tar Heels' attack averages 13.32 goals per game.

Senior attacker Erin Fitzgerald (59 goals) is the heart of Northwestern's offense. In the absence of a true feeder, the Wildcats' offense has become more dodging-oriented , with 72 percent of their goals unassisted. Leonard (12 assists) is the only feeder with double-digit assists, and most of her helpers during fast breaks.

FRESHMAN STANDOUT

Then

North Carolina midfielder Sammy Jo Tracy contributed two goals and two assists in the February win. Tracy currently has just 13 goals on the season but has become a big contributor on the circle with 30 draw controls.

Now

Northwestern midfielder Nancy Dunbar came off the bench and scored two goals in the Wildcats' 15-8 second-round victory over Stanford. Amonte Hiller tinkers with her lineup a lot, especially in the tournament. Twenty non-starters, including Dunbar, saw action in Northwestern's 15-7 quarterfinal win over Penn State. Any one of them could be poised for a surprise performance in the semifinal.

PATH TO VICTORY

Then

North Carolina took advantage of Northwestern's nine first-half turnovers and raced to a 7-1 lead that the Wildcats were never able to overcome. It's almost impossible to rally against Northwestern, so starting strong essential. In the past five seasons, only two teams have successfully come back against a significant deficit to the Wildcats — Johns Hopkins in a 2011 regular season game, and Maryland in 2010 championship.

Now

Possession and ball control. Northwestern can slow-play anyone into the ground (see: 2013 ALC championship victory over Florida), and Leonard can give them the ball on the circle. Strong goalie play can make up for draw troubles, but that hasn't been a strength for the Tar Heels this Year. Senior Lauren Maksym (.418) and freshman Meg Ward (.494) split time in the cage in February, but since then Ward has overtaken Maksym as the starter. Ward has posted 19 saves in two games in the NCAA tournament thus far.

Katie Schwarzmann scored a career-high seven goals on eight shots in a Feb. 17 win over Syracuse at the Carrier Dome.
© Greg Wall

Maryland vs. Syracuse

LEADING SCORERS

Then (Feb. 17)

Senior midfielder Katie Schwarzmann had a career-high seven goals on just 8 shots in the February win for Maryland. Senior attacker Michelle Tumolo led Syracuse with four goals and two assists. It's worth mentioning that the game against the Terps was originally going to be the Orange's season opener, before coach Gary Gait hastily scheduled a Jan. 13 game at Jacksonville after Tumolo was red-carded in the 2012 championship game and prohibited in playing in the next game. Gait wanted Tumolo in the Maryland game and she delivered, but it wasn't quite enough.

Since then, Tumolo went down with a torn ACL in mid-April, although she did play in the final minute of the Orange's 13-9 second-round win over Florida. Gait said Tumolo's cameo was more about giving her a chance to say good-bye to the Carrier Dome and the fans rather than a sign that she is close to returning to play at Villanova.

"She's an inspirational leader for us. We're hoping to get her in," Gait said. (Translation: We're aiming to have such a significant lead that we can play our bench.)

Now

Since Tumolo's injury, freshman attacker Kayla Treanor's star has risen. She has 52 points, second only to senior attacker and Tewaaraton finalist Alyssa Murray (70).

Schwarzmann is now No. 2 on Maryland in goals (52) and assists (24), trailing senior attacker Alex Aust in both categories. Aust has 67 goals and 52 assists on the season so far, and her 119 points are third in Maryland's all-time single season records.

FRESHMAN STANDOUT

Then

Maryland midfielder Taylor Cummings had five goals and six draw controls against Syracuse in just her second college game.

Now

Cummings and Treanor are in a neck-to-neck race for IWLCA Rookie of the Year.

KEY STAT

Then

Fouls. Syracuse got hacky, committing 31 fouls to Maryland's 13, including four yellow cards, and only had one caused turnover to show for it.

Now

Saves. Syracuse (15.33 goals per game) and Maryland (15.19) have the No. 2 and No. 3 offenses in the country, and both teams shoot early and often. There were a combined 62 shots in the February game. That kind of volume can wear on a goalie mentally. Syracuse has options with its goalie platoon of Kelsey Richardson and Alyssa Costantino. They've split time throughout the year, with Richardson (.363) edging Costantino (.381) for the start in the last five games.

Maryland goalie Kasey Howard has been a low-key success story. The senior spent three years as a practice goalie behind All-American Brittany Dipper, and only got the starting nod this season. She has a .439 save percentage overall and performed well against Syracuse (11 saves) last time around.

"Kasey is a delight. She really stepped up, took ownership of the defense, and is a great communicator and leader," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said.

PATH TO VICTORY

Then

Maryland's midfield sliced and diced its way through the Orange's zone defense. Syracuse has since added a backer, which should limit Aust.

"We just like to mix it up," Gait said of the Orange's D. "Last game, we played a little man-to-man and a little zone and it's important to be able to play different. You look at your personnel and decide who you're going to play. We made some adjustments to our young midfielders, too."

Now

For Syracuse, limit the fast-break scoring by midfielders like Schwarzmann and Cummings. For Maryland, maintain the steady professionalism of a top-seeded, undefeated frontrunner. The Orange feeds on emotionally charged situations, so never let them see you sweat.

LaxMagazine.com will have complete coverage of championship weekend, beginning Thursday with media day and continuing throughout the weekend with live blogs, post-game reaction and more. Be sure to follow @LacrosseMag on Twitter for instant updates as well.


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