TOWSON, Md. — Maryland’s 9-6 victory over Northwestern in an NCAA women’s lacrosse semifinal Friday night did not start well for junior Kelly McPartland.
In the first 15 minutes, the Terps’ leading scorer had two goals disallowed. By game’s end, she more than made up for her transgressions, scoring a team-high three goals to lead the Terrapins (22-1) to the NCAA title game for the fourth time in five years before 8,256 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
No. 1 Maryland will face No. 2 Syracuse (21-2) on Sunday night at 8:30. The Orange advanced with a 16-8 victory over Virginia in the first semifinal.
Sunday’s game may decide more than the national champion. The Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the top player in the college game, is down to five finalists. Four will be on the field in the final.
In the early stages against the Wildcats (14-7), McPartland didn’t look like the player who will enter the title game with a team-high 60 goals. Her first goal Friday was waved off for stepping in the crease; a short while later her second was nullified by an infraction she committed just before her shot crossed the goal line.
But she recovered with a goal to tie the game at 2 with 12 minutes 29 seconds left in the first half; scored again for a 4-2 lead with 1:33 left in the half; and added her final goal with 8:11 to play for a 9-4 lead that wasn’t threatened.
“Aside from those two, my shooting wasn’t very good in the beginning,” McPartland said. “[Coach Cathy Reese] talked to us at several of the timeouts, she told us we had to shoot high. I just adjusted from there.”
Northwestern Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, a Maryland graduate, has won seven NCAA titles in 13 seasons at the school. Her game plan was focused on stopping sophomore Taylor Cummings, one of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton. (The others are Maryland junior Megan Douty and two players from Syracuse, senior Alyssa Murray and sophomore Kayla Treanor.)
For much of the game, Northwestern face-guarded Cummings, meaning one player followed Cummings all over the field, with her back to everything else.
Cummings finished with one goal and was scoreless over the final 56-plus minutes. Yet she was smiling in the postgame news conference.
“I’ve never really been face guarded like that,” she said. “Our team was able to move around it and play six on six. . . . I just sat up top and watched my team go to work.”
Northwestern’s plan on offense was to control the tempo by holding onto the ball. It was foiled by Maryland’s stout defense. Led by Douty, the Terrapins had a 14-5 advantage in groundballs and held Northwestern without a shot, let alone a goal, for stretches of 11 minutes and nine minutes.
Senior Kara Mupo scored two goals to lead the Wildcats.
“They have good players,” Amonte Hiller said. “They play good team defense.”
The first semifinal pitted Syracuse’s dynamic offense, led by Treanor and Murray, against Virginia first-team all-American goalie Liz Colgan.
Colgan was the program’s first first-team all-American at any position since 2010 and the first in goal since 1996. Colgan’s high-water mark was a 22-save performance against defending national champion North Carolina.
She didn’t have a chance to replicate that feat on Friday.
Virginia (12-9) gave too much space to Treanor and Murray in the offensive end, and it showed: Murray finished with six goals and three assists and Treanor added four goals and three assists. In building a 9-3 halftime lead, Treanor had a goal and three assists and Murray added three goals and an assist.
“Syracuse played its best game of the season,” Virginia Coach Julie Myers said. “Their best players were impossible to stop.”
The Cavaliers were in the Final Four for the first time since 2007. Senior Maddy Keeshan scored three goals for Virginia, which didn’t get closer than five goals in the second half.