When the University of Maryland women's lacrosse team was ranked second in the country in the coaches' preseason poll, many so-called experts thought the lofty ranking was more out of respect for the Terrapins' program of the past than a reflection the present team's talent.

But, as evidenced by the Terrapins' inclusion in the NCAA Final Four this weekend, the critics were mistaken. Maryland (14-1 in the regular season) has changed the emphasis from the game plan that led to second place in last season's championship. The result is a school-record 216 goals and the most potent Maryland attack ever.

The Terrapins will need all their firepower at 2 p.m. today in Byrd Stadium when they face a high-scoring Penn State team that traditionally has given Maryland trouble. The Terrapins defeated the Nittany Lions, 8-6, in the regular season, but Penn State (14-3) still holds a 9-7-1 series advantage.

Returning all-America attackers Kay Ruffino (46 goals, 27 assists) and Karen Trudel (45, 20) lead the Maryland attack, which was stepped up after the graduation of five defensive all-Americas from last season's team.

New Hampshire (9-3) plays at defending champion Temple (17-0) Sunday in the other semifinal. The winners will meet May 19 at the University of Pennsylvania. Temple beat the Terrapins in the season opener, 10-6.