Familiar Foes Set to Meet in NCAA Championship
|Maryland will play North Carolina
for the third time this season in Sunday's national title
© Greg Carroccio
VILLANOVA, Pa. — Maryland coach Cathy Reese didn’t want her team thinking about who they might play in the NCAA championship. So she banned cell phones from the locker room as the No. 1 seed Terps waited out Friday night's first semifinal game between North Carolina and Northwestern, concentrating on themselves and their upcoming game against Syracuse.
The media blackout was short-lived, though.
"We come out there to warm up, and of course the scoreboard’s still on. And the scoreboard’s lit up for a good 20 minutes into our warm-up, so that didn’t work too well," Reese said.
It was there for all to see: the Tar Heels had defeated Northwestern, the defending national champions, 11-4. For the first time since 2004, the Wildcats would not advance to the final game.
"I can’t believe we’re in the championship my freshman year and our team just played so well today. I’m really proud of them," said North Carolina freshman goalie Meghan Ward, who had seven saves in the semifinal win.
In the second semifinal, Maryland outlasted Syracuse, 11-10. Thus the two ACC foes will meet for the third time this season, the 33rd time ever and the first time in an NCAA championship. The Terps lead the all-time series, 21-10.
"We know Carolina well, and Carolina knows us well. We see a lot of each other through our conference play," Reese said.
Maryland won both games this season. The Terps prevailed 14-13 at home on April 6, in a No. 1 versus No. 2 battle that set a lacrosse game attendance record (2,347) at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park. Then they topped the Tar Heels 12-8 in Chapel Hill in the ACC Championship to win their fifth straight conference title. Maryland is now 22-0 headed into Sunday night's championship, but North Carolina is eager for the rematch.
"The losses definitely hurt, but they helped us get to where we are now, and helped us get to the championship game", Tar Heel senior attacker Kara Cannizzaro said.
The Terps rode a balanced attack to victory against North Carolina in their previous games, with three different players scoring multiple goals. The Tar Heel defense had a spectacular day against Northwestern, which tied a season-low in goals scored. The Wildcats’ great offensive weakness was their lack of a pure feeder, which the Terps certainly have with Alex Aust. The senior attacker had two goals and two assists against Syracuse. Aust leads Maryland in goals (64) and assists (54) for the season.
"We just have to keep working as a team, and keep finding open players and just find the back of the net," said Maryland sophomore midfielder Brooke Griffin, who scored the game-winner against the Orange on an assist from senior midfielder Katie Schwarzmann (one goal, thre assists).
It’s only the second national championship appearance for the Tar Heels, who were routed by Northwestern, 21-7, in the 2009 title game. North Carolina coach Jenny Levy said she was unconcerned with facing a heavily favored opponent in the final.
"I’m sure we’ll be the underdog again. That’s OK by us," Levy said. "Our mindset is, it’s still a game. It’s 60 minutes. You’ve got overlook the end result of that game and really get into the fabric of the game and how you’re going to play it. I think when you get into those details, you can have some great results."
It’s the 17th championship game for the Terps, who have won 10 NCAA titles, but the current players are just as eager for another ring, particularly the seniors. The Class of 2013 won an NCAA championship 2010, and would like go out on top as major contributors to the Maryland lacrosse legacy.
"To go out playing in a national championship game, there’s no better feeling than this," Schwarzmann said. "We’re just going to do what we need to do and come out with that championship."