Terps Push Past Northwestern for Another Title Shot
In-Game Blog Replay
|Junior midfielder Kelly McPartland scored three goals Friday in Maryland's 9-6 NCAA semifinal victory over Northwestern. (Greg Wall)|
TOWSON, Md. — Maryland has been lulled to sleep by Northwestern before, and the Terps weren't about to let it happen again.
Refusing to allow the Wildcats to settle into stall mode, Maryland sent defenders swarming two at a time, and injected just enough tempo into its NCAA semifinal encounter with a future Big Ten foe to emerge with a 9-6 victory Friday at Towson.
The top-seeded Terps will play second-seeded Syracuse in the NCAA championship game Sunday, a winner-take-all Tewaaraton Award showdown featuring four of the five finalists for college lacrosse's highest individual honor: Syracuse's Alyssa Murray and Kayla Treanor against Maryland's Taylor Cummings and Megan Douty.
But while Murray and Treanor were a two-woman wrecking crew in the Orange's 16-8 win over Virginia, combining for 16 points, Maryland leaned more heavily on its supporting cast Friday.
Redshirt junior attacker Brooke Griffin and junior midfielder Kelly McPartland made Northwestern pay for face-guarding Cummings, giving them the space and freedom around the goal. Griffin had two goals — including one on a spectacular diving sidearm shot in the second half — and two assists. McPartland scored a game-high three goals.
"I've never really been face-guarded like that," said Cummings, who saw constant pressure from Wildcats specialist Kerri Harrington. "Our team was able to kind of weave around it and play a lot of 6-v-6. It actually opened things up for us and made it easier to dodge. So I just stood at the top and watched my team do the work."
Game Highlights (Via Northwestern)
Douty, the junior defender enjoying a breakout season, anchored an aggressive Terps defense that forced Northwestern into nearly as many turnovers (10) as it had shots on goal (11).
"We sent the doubles early and communicated really well," Douty said.
The Wildcats, who prefer a plodding pace and beat Maryland in the 2012 NCAA semifinals with that approach, never established a rhythm on offense. Northwestern went scoreless for nearly 25 minutes after taking an early 2-1 lead, fell behind 5-2 at halftime and had another scoring drought of more than 15 minutes in the second half as the Terps built a four-goal cushion.
"We don't plan for it to be low-scoring," said Northwestern senior attacker Alyssa Leonard, who finished her career with an NCAA-record 469 draw controls. "Maryland did a great job on defense."
Kara Mupo, the Wildcats' redshirt junior attacker, came to life with two goals and an assist late in the game, but three Northwestern yellow cards in the final four minutes sealed the game. Maryland held edges in draw controls (10-7) and ground balls (14-5), while committing just 15 fouls to the Wildcats' 30.
"We want to make sure our team doesn't retaliate," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said when asked about the physical brand of lacrosse both Northwestern and Syracuse espouse. "I want to demonstrate class all over the field."
The Terps (20-1), making their 18th NCAA championship game appearance, will need to beat the Orange for the third time this season to win their 11th national title. Maryland beat Syracuse 12-10 at the Carrier Dome in March and 13-7 in the ACC championship game.
The NCAA final will feature two of the most exciting young talents in women's lacrosse in Cummings and Treanor, both sophomores and both already two-time first-team IWLCA All-Americans. They were teammates with the U.S. national team in the fall.
"Kayla is a great player," Cummings said, "but the focus is on us."
Northwestern, a dynasty with seven NCAA championships, took solace in advancing to its 10th consecutive final four despite finishing with its most losses (seven) since 2003.
"Despite some setbacks, this team accomplished a lot," Wildcats coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. "It's one of the greatest groups I've ever had, in terms of culture."
While the teams have not played recently during the regular season, Maryland and Northwestern both will be members of the new Big Ten women's lacrosse conference in 2015.
"We're very excited about the Big Ten and Maryland being a part of that," Amonte Hiller said. "It's hard to think about next year today, but yes, we are very excited about it. It will allow us to continue a great rivalry with them."
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