North Carolina Edges Maryland, 8-7, in NCAA Women's Lacrosse Semifinals
Saturday, May 23, 2009
TOWSON, Md., May 22 -- All season long, the Maryland women's lacrosse team had been able to rely on its high-powered offense to blow games open or wipe out deficits. But on Friday night in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament, the Terrapins were shut down and lost to ACC rival North Carolina, 8-7, in front of 7,549 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The loss -- to a team they had beaten earlier in the year, 13-8 -- brought an abrupt end to what had been a charmed season for the Terrapins: 21 straight wins, an ACC tournament title, and a return to the final four following a five-season absence. It also prevented what would have been an intriguing championship showdown between Maryland, a program that won seven straight NCAA titles between 1995 and 2001, and Northwestern, which has won the past four titles under the direction of former Terrapin star Kelly Amonte Hiller.
Instead, third-seeded North Carolina (16-4) will try to unseat top-seeded Northwestern (22-0) in the final on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. The Tar Heels are in the championship game for the first time.
Freshman Karri Ellen Johnson, a two-time All Met from Broadneck, scored four goals for the second-seeded Terrapins (21-1), who were held to their lowest scoring total of the season. Maryland outshot North Carolina, 22-19.
The start of Maryland's game was delayed nearly an hour because of multiple overtimes in the first semifinal, and the Terrapins appeared jittery once their game finally began. Their first two possessions ended with errant passes far from the goal, and nearly six minutes elapsed before they recorded their first shot.
"We stepped on the field timid," said Coach Cathy Reese, whose team did not have any seniors in its starting lineup. "We looked a little frantic. . . . They stepped up their pressure. They're a fast team, they're athletic, they hustle all over the midfield and they did stop our fast breaks and our transition, which is a key component to our style of play."
North Carolina scored twice in a 30-second span early in the second half to open up a 7-5 advantage, the largest lead of the game; sophomore Corey Donohoe scored off a free position, despite slipping to the turf, and then junior Megan Bosica, a two-time All-Met player of the year at Mount Hebron, netted her second goal of the game.
With 14 minutes 22 seconds remaining, Johnson scored on a strong individual effort, keeping her balance as a defender bounced off her. That goal ended a 14-minute drought for one of the highest-scoring teams in the country. Sophomore Sarah Mollison tied the score five minutes later, curling around the cage and dropping a shot that just made it over the goal line, according to the official.
Freshman Laura Zimmerman scored what turned out to be the game-winner for North Carolina with 8:22 left. The Terrapins thought they had tied the score again with 5:23 to play, but junior Caitlyn McFadden's goal was waved off because of a crease violation. The Tar Heels' defense came up with two big plays in the final minutes: a point-blank save by junior goalie Logan Ripley, and a steal by senior defender Amber Falcone.
"I think we didn't really ever get in a good groove like we normally do," McFadden said. "We got the open shots, we got the looks, but their goalie came up with some crucial saves that really turned it around. We fought hard to get it back, but they ran out the clock."
-- NORTHWESTERN 13, PENNSYLVANIA 12: Senior midfielder Meredith Frank scored barely 90 seconds into double overtime, giving the top-seeded Wildcats a thrilling victory over the Quakers in the first semifinal.
Northwestern appeared to be in control of the game after scoring three straight goals to open up an 11-7 lead with 9:14 left in the second half. But the Quakers -- who are known primarily for their stingy defense, not their offense -- reeled off four goals in a 4:52 span. Senior attacker Samantha Bird tied the score at 11 with 1:30 remaining, and Pennsylvania's defense stymied the Wildcats' last charge, stripping Hannah Nielsen, Northwestern's best player, of the ball.
The Quakers struck first in overtime, when freshman Erin Brennan scooped up a loose ball and fired it in from close range. Less than 10 seconds later -- just before the clock was reset and the teams were due to switch ends of the field -- Northwestern junior Katrina Dowd somehow flung the ball from her knees, at a sharp angle into the net.
"I couldn't see the cage," Dowd said of the goal, which was her fourth of the game and 18th of the tournament -- a new NCAA tournament record. "I was on my knees and the ball was on the ground. I knew there wasn't much time left, so I just swung at the ball and tapped it. It was a hockey-like goal. I guess it's a good thing that I practice making those crazy shots."