Women's Weekend Watch: Maryland-Syracuse Showdown
1. 2015 Semifinal, 2014 Championship Rematch
No. 1 Maryland (4-0) at No. 3 Syracuse (6-1): Saturday, 12 p.m.
While there have been some shifts in the rankings, with Syracuse bumping to the No. 2 before its overtime loss to Florida, both the Terps and Orange are right where they stood in the Nike/Lacrosse Magazine Preaseason Top 20.
Expectations for both programs surround the NCAA championship. Can Maryland three-peat after graduating seven starters? Can Syracuse win its first-ever national title after coming so close in 2012 and '14? The Terps defeated the Orange 15-12 two years ago, while Northwestern topped Syracuse 8-6 in Gary Gait's first appearance in the national final.
Then there's the two stars for each team: Taylor Cummings, the two-time Tewaaraton winner, and Kayla Treanor, the two-time Tewaaraton finalist. As a midfielder, Cummings has edged out Treanor for postseason honors throughout their careers, but now they collide with Treanor's newfound prowess on the draw, currently leading Division I with 12 draw controls per game. While the Maryland-Syracuse game is always a fun battle to watch, it will be even more interesting to see how the Team USA teammates match up against each other on the draw, which we saw a glimpse of in the 2015 semifinal.
In addition to Treanor, Syracuse is boosted by the play of Halle Majorana, a Maryland transfer, who is tied for second on the team with Riley Donahue at 24 points. Freshman Nicole Levy is a dynamic threat on offense with her sidearm shot, currently sitting fourth with 10 goals. For the Terps, sophomore Megan Whittle is tied with Cummings for a team-high 15 points on 15 goals, while Zoe Stukenberg is close behind with 14 points. Alice Mercer and Nadine Hadnagy are mainstays on the young Terps defense.
Syracuse rebounded from its 11-10 overtime loss to Florida, which scored an open-net goal after an Orange turnover on the clear, with a 14-8 win over Virginia last week. Neither of the former ACC rivals are likely to take this game lightly because, while it's still early in the season, it could have major postseason implications.
Syracuse has fallen tantilizingly short of the NCAA championship in recent years largely thanks to Maryland. Last year, the Orange were knocked out of the tournament by two goals in the semifinal, but after graduating eight starters from the 2014 NCAA runner-up, they still made it back to the final four after grabbing their first ACC title. This spring, they returned all but four starters, and if there's a season they could win it all, it would be fitting to be the year Treanor is a senior.
2. Despite a loss, Seawolves' mantra is still "Prove People Wrong."
No. 8 Stony Brook (2-1) at No. 13 Northwestern (2-3): Saturday, 1 p.m.
Prior to the Seawolves' one-goal loss to Florida, two starters dropped out of the lineup – junior midfielder Kristin Yevoli and freshman midfielder Kasey Mitchell, both key members of their draw unit. Yevoli injured her ankle in Saturday's practice and will be out for a couple games, while Mitchell had to sit out since Friday due to her appendix.
After rallying from a 5-2 halftime deficit without two key players, it was clear Stony Brook never gave up. The Seawolves beat the Gators in the ground ball battle and had less turnovers.
"I could not be more proud of our kids to lose two starters a day before the biggest game of the year," said Stony Brook coach Joe Spallina. "To rebound from that speaks volumes about our kids."
After graduating only three starters, the Seawolves were expected to enter to 2016 with a chip on their shoulder after falling to Princeton in the NCAA tournament. They lost only 19 percent of their offensive production, returning Kylie Ohlmiller, one of three freshman Tewaaraton nominees, who currently has 12 points for Stony Brook. Dorrien Van Dyke has a team-high 14 points and is tied with Courtney Murphy for a team-best nine goals.
"Prove People Wrong" (PPW) continues to be the team's slogan despite the early season slipup. A one-goal loss to one of the hottest teams in the country is not a bad loss. Playing consistently is key moving forward, according to Spallina.
"Our mantra of PPW is part of our personalities and we know every time we step on the field, we have questions to answer," he said. "We'd have it no other way."
Stony Brook turns to face Northwestern, which was one of the season-defining wins for the Seawolves in 2015. They topped then-No. 5 Wildcats 11-9. Which young squad will come out on top in 2016?
With an up-and-down season, Northwestern is hoping its home stretch will help turn around its tough early season slate with losses to Virginia, Syracuse and Louisville. But again, Selena Lasota can't do it all. The young Wildcat needs help, even when she's shut out due to a faceguard.
3. Can the Tigers stay undefeated?
No. 7 Princeton (4-0) at No. 6 Notre Dame (7-1): Sunday, 1 p.m.
The Tigers lost only two starters to graduation, but the duo of Erin Slifer and Erin McMunn were key offensive players, making up for nearly 40 percent of their point production.
Unbeaten thus far, Princeton seems to be doing well without them, with the exception of a scare Georgetown handed them in the one-goal game. Their only significant win thus far has been against Virginia, which currently ranks ninth, two spots behind them. How will they fare against the defensive-minded Fighting Irish? Princeton junior midfield Olivia Hompe, who tops the stat sheet with 20 points, will need to command the offense.
Notre Dame has rebounded from lone loss (in double overtime to Louisville last week) with dominating wins over Virginia Tech (19-10) and Liberty (25-2). With a tough three-game homestand against Princeton, Virginia and Syracuse, they'll need to play confident if they want to keep pace in the Top 10.
The Irish are led by Cortney Fortunato with a team-best 45 points. She is complemented by Rachel Sexton (27 points), Nikki Ortega (23 points) and Heidi Annaheim (22 points). Fifth-year senior Barbara Sullivan is not only their defensive leader, but also key in the midfield with a team-high 32 draw controls.
4. More Games to Watch
No. 14 Boston College (4-2) at No. 2 Florida (7-0): Friday, 6:30 p.m.
How do the Gators respond to the No. 2 ranking? Can the Eagles continue their recovery from ACC losses? Either Florida's record remains untouched or Boston College surprises with a key upset win.
No. 4 North Carolina (4-2) at No. 9 Virginia (4-3): Saturday, 1 p.m.
Virginia needs to recover from its one-goal loss to unranked Loyola and play a strong 60 minutes, but the Tar Heels want to keep rolling after their one-goal loss to Maryland. North Carolina won this ACC matchup 10-7 in 2015.
No. 5 Louisville (7-0) vs. No. 16 Duke (4-4): Saturday, 1 p.m.
Similar to the Cavaliers, Duke needs to rebound. In their case, from a one-goal loss to Georgetown, the second unranked team the 2015 NCAA semifinalist have fallen to on the young season. Unbeaten Louisville has no intention of changing its championship mindset, which has bode well so far this season.
No. 19 Massachusetts (4-1) at No. 18 Connecticut (4-0): Saturday, 1 p.m.
Both UMass and UConn have been on similar paths this season. While the Minutewomen fell to Boston College by only one goal, this game will determine which team is better among the New England neighbors.
Where to Watch on TV/Streams
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