VILLANOVA, Pa. – The score was tied late in the second half in the NCAA women’s lacrosse semifinal on Friday night when Maryland senior Alex Aust forced a crucial Syracuse turnover. The Maryland fans stood and cheered. The referees blew their whistles.
They had inadvertently restarted play while the television broadcast was in a commercial. Syracuse was given the ball back.
And a few seconds later, when the broadcasters were ready, Aust forced a turnover again.
It was one of three times — two of which counted — that Aust helped Maryland regain possession deep in its end by forcing a failed clear. The possession Aust helped keep alive resulted in the winning goal with 2 minutes 51 seconds left in Maryland’s 11-10 victory.
On Sunday night, the top-seeded Terrapins (22-0) will go for their 11th NCAA title, and first since 2010, when they face No. 3 North Carolina (17-3) at Villanova Stadium.
The teams will be meeting for the third time. Maryland won the first two by scores of 14-13 and 12-8. The second meeting was in the ACC tournament title game.
Aust will play a big role if the Terrapins are going to win again. She enters the game with 69 goals and 54 assists and is one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the top college player in the sport.
The other finalists include Maryland senior Katie Schwarzmann, a starting midfielder, and North Carolina senior Kara Cannizzaro, also a midfielder.
Aust is playing attack after she was a standout midfielder at Bullis.
“When Alex came in we knew she had talent,” Maryland Coach Cathy Reese said. “But we had to get her to know how good she was. . . . I think she’s the best attack in the country. She also has that ability to make everyone around her better. She has her finger on the pulse of this team.”
Aust made an immediate impact at Bullis. Bulldogs Coach Kathleen Lloyd had the unique perspective of coaching her and coaching against her.
Lloyd was the coach at Holy Cross when Aust was a freshman.
“When she came to Bullis in ninth grade I wasn’t here. I had left for two years and when I came back she was a sophomore,” Lloyd said. “I remember seeing her as a freshman [in a Holy Cross-Bullis game] and I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh.’ ”
At Bullis, Aust played basketball and lacrosse. As a senior, she tried field hockey for the first time and was an immediate success.
“I was really serious in basketball and lacrosse my whole life,” Aust said. “But I had a bunch of friends who played field hockey, and I wanted to try something new. It was fun to see things from a different aspect, not knowing who were the big guns on the other team, just going out there and being carefree.”
Aust began playing lacrosse at Loudoun Country Day School in Leesburg. The school, with an enrollment of 306, is where Aust signed her letter of intent to play for Maryland in November 2008.
Aust and her sister Nicole, a sophomore defender for Maryland, commuted to Bullis, located in Montgomery County, from the family home in Sterling. It meant long days. But it also meant that Aust’s trip from a small grade school to the largest state in her sport has been followed by a good number of people.
Lloyd, Aust’s coach at Bullis, said she would attend Thursday’s Teewaaraton Trophy presentation in Washington “with the head of school and a couple rising juniors.”
Of Aust, she said: “In the fall and spring she’d be at school from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. And in the winter, with basketball practice, it was more like 8 a.m. to 7:30. That’s a lot of time and a lot of dedication.”