TOWSON, Md. — Approximately 80 minutes before Maryland’s 15-12 victory over Syracuse in the NCAA women’s lacrosse championship game on Sunday night, as the first part of the record crowd of 10,311 was being admitted into Johnny Unitas Stadium, the only action visible was a group of six Syracuse players working on draw-control drills outside their locker room.
The players were proven right and wrong at the same time. Draw controls were crucial. Yet no amount of extra work could help the Orange.
Sophomore Taylor Cummings led Maryland to a strong performance in draw controls, the women’s lacrosse equivalent of a faceoff. She helped Maryland win the first five draw controls, 10 of the first 11 and 16 of 29 overall.
It all led to Maryland’s 12th national title and first since 2010.
“Draw controls were huge,” said Cummings, named the tournament’s most valuable player. “We came out fired up and ready to go. We didn’t want to play with fear.”
The first five draw controls set the tone. Maryland parlayed those wins into goals and those goals into a 5-0 lead before the Orange had possessed the ball in its offensive end. Though the Orange closed to 5-4, it did not get closer than one goal the rest of the game. Syracuse, attempting to win its first NCAA title, drew closer in draw controls in the second half. It closed to 15-12 following a goal by senior Alyssa Murray with 4 minutes 21 seconds to play.
Syracuse won the ensuing draw control but turned the ball over on an errant pass. The Terrapins turned the ball over deep in their own end with 2:25 to play. As the Syracuse fans and players on the bench urged the Orange to move the ball upfield quickly, Maryland senior Beth Glaros picked up a loose ball with 2:15 left to help run out the clock.
Glaros finished with five goals and an assist, and Cummings added three goals, an assist and eight draw controls for the Terrapins (23-1). Murray and senior Katie Webster each scored three goals for Syracuse (21-3).
Syracuse lost three games this year. All were to Maryland. That includes losses in the NCAA and ACC tournament title games.
“We did a better job in the second half on draw controls,” Syracuse Coach Gary Gait said. “If we’d done that in the first half it would have been a different game.”
Befitting a title game, Sunday night was a marquee matchup. Maryland and Syracuse were No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, both in the NCAA tournament seeding and in the final regular season polls.
The game certainly had the attention of the fans. The first of them arrived to spread picnic blankets in the grassy hills around the stadium more than four hours before the game.
More than two hours before the game, there was a line of fans waiting to enter the stadium.
And the first chants of, “Let’s Go, Maryland!” began about 20 minutes before the game.
As much as the matchup itself, there were individual battles worth watching too.
On the field were four of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the top women’s college player. Each team had two finalists — Cummings and junior Megan Douty for Maryland; Murray and sophomore Kayla Treanor for Syracuse.
Adding to the intrigue: When Syracuse had the ball, the four award finalists primarily were matched on each other, as Cummings guarded Murray and Douty guarded Treanor.
Syracuse had success when it had possession. The problem was it didn’t have the ball very often.
After the initial 5-0 deficit, Treanor and Murray helped the Orange close to 5-4 following a goal by Murray with 9:42 left in the first half. Treanor scored two goals in the spurt, both times while being defended by Douty.
Eight seconds after Treanor’s goal, however, the Terrapins had a two-goal lead again. Cummings won the ensuing draw control, raced downfield and scored.
Maryland last won the title in 2010. Since then, it had lost in the title game by one goal; lost in the semifinals by two goals; and lost in the title game by one goal in triple overtime.
In winning the title this year, Maryland showcased its all-around talent. In a 9-6 victory against Northwestern in the semfinals on Friday night, defense was crucial: The Wildcats had stretches of 11 and nine minutes without taking a shot.
“We went to three Final Fours and this is our fourth,” said Glaros, the only senior starter. “We really didn’t want to come up short on this one.”