Maryland Terrapins advance to NCAA lacrosse championship

Maryland, led by senior captain Caitlyn McFadden's four goals, advanced to the national title game with its 14-5 win over Syracuse at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Md.
By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 29, 2010

TOWSON, MD. -- The Maryland women's lacrosse players knew when they needed to take the field on Friday, and when they left, there was still time in the night to enjoy senior captain Caitlyn McFadden's birthday. When Coach Cathy Reese tried to pinpoint the best part of earning the top seed in the NCAA tournament, she said it was the early time slot, which goes to the tournament's top team and allows for more structure -- and less waiting -- during an already long day.

The Terrapins have done much waiting in recent years, including eight seasons without an appearance in the championship game. That ended Friday with a 14-5 win over unseeded Syracuse at Johnny Unitas Stadium, providing a chance for a program that claimed seven consecutive national championships from 1995 to 2001 to return to the top.

"They've earned it," said Reese, who was a part of each of those championships as either a player or assistant. "And now we're here, and we're going to go for it."

To do so, Maryland must unseat second-seeded Northwestern, which has won five consecutive national championships.

It appeared Maryland would earn that opportunity last season, when it entered the national semifinals undefeated. Northwestern was the No. 1 seed, which meant the Wildcats played the first game. The Terrapins needed to wait late into the night just to begin play, and into a new day to finally leave Towson after losing to North Carolina.

"It felt like we were sitting in front of you guys at one in the morning," Reese said, referencing the post-game news conference.

On Friday, before 8,762, the largest crowd to watch a women's lacrosse game in the United States, it was still light outside when Maryland held a 7-2 halftime advantage. The Terrapins added a goal less than two minutes into the second half before going into a scoring drought that lasted more than 21 minutes, during which time Syracuse scored three consecutive second-half goals to cut Maryland's advantage in half.

After the Orange failed to convert a free-position shot, Maryland freshman Katie Schwarzmann returned with a goal with 6:26 remaining in the game to finally change the Maryland side of the scoreboard. The Terrapins scored two more goals in the next 82 seconds, and what had moments earlier been a three-goal game was suddenly a six-goal game.

"Nothing really happened," McFadden said. "We were just making some mistakes we don't usually make."

For Reese, reaching the championship game felt even better because the class that she arrived with in College Park now make up the senior leaders on the team. The headliner of that group is McFadden, a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist who celebrated her 22nd birthday on Friday with four goals.

"All I wanted for my birthday was a win," said McFadden, who confirmed Friday ranks among the best birthdays of her life. Reese joked that she must now find someone to have a birthday on Sunday.

After the game, Reese embraced Syracuse Coach Gary Gait, who once coached Reese and later coached with her. Gait is among the candidates reported to be considered for the Terrapins' men's head coaching vacancy.

While the coaches met, the Maryland players piled on top of each other celebrating an elusive semifinals victory. Then, they departed the field earlier than last season -- and, more importantly, with a championship game to be played on Sunday.

-- NORTHWESTERN 15, NORTH CAROLINA 10: The Wildcats advanced to the title game by avenging an April 18 loss to the Tar Heels. Northwestern held a one-goal lead when sophomore Shannon Smith scored with 12:31 remaining to start a four-goal rally that put the game out of reach.

The game was tied at halftime after North Carolina scored as time expired and remained tight until the Wildcats' late surge, during which they stalled the ball after controlling the draws. Smith led Northwestern with two goals and two assists.

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