VILLANOVA, Pa. — Both of Maryland senior Katie Schwarzmann’s teams were in attendance on Friday night at Villanova Stadium. The Maryland women’s lacrosse team defeated Syracuse, 11-10, in an NCAA semifinal before 6,278.
Schwarzmann also is the youngest player selected to the U.S. women’s national team, which will compete for the FIL World Cup this summer. Team USA, in town for a scrimmage, was introduced to the crowd at halftime.
Schwarzmann validated that selection yet again with several big plays for the top-seeded Terrapins (22-0). Maryland, going for its first NCAA title since 2010, will face No. 3 North Carolina in the title game on Sunday at 8 p.m.
The Tar Heels (17-3) advanced with an 11-4 victory over No. 2 Northwestern in the first semifinal.
Maryland clinched its win with a grinding possession late in the second half against the fourth-seeded Orange (18-4).
The game was tied and the Orange had the ball with 9 minutes 4 seconds left when a shot by junior Katie Webster went wide. It was her team’s last shot.
Maryland freshman Alice Mercer backed up the shot to give her team possession.
For almost all of the next 6:13, the ball was in Maryland’s half of the field. Twice Syracuse gained possession deep in Maryland’s end but immediately turned it over.
The possession finally ended when Schwarzmann got the ball 15 yards from the goal and floated a pass to redshirt sophomore Brooke Griffin for a point-blank shot and goal with 2:51 to play.
It was Griffin’s only goal.
“We were moving the ball quickly,” Griffin said. “It was such a team effort. . . . We were moving the ball fast and trying to catch the defense off-guard.”
Maryland won the ensuing draw control and ran out the clock. Schwarzmann finished with a goal and three assists and sophomore Kelly McPartland added three goals and an assist for Maryland.
Freshman Kayla Traynor had four goals and two assists for Syracuse.
Maryland entered with two of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Trophy, given to the best college player in the sport: Schwarzmann and senior attack Alex Aust. (Schwarzmann won the award last year.)
The Orange also had two finalists on its roster — junior Alyssa Murray this year and senior Michelle Tumolo, a finalist last year.
But only Murray played on Friday. Tumolo suffered a knee injury on April 16; though she played briefly in a quarterfinal win over Florida, took part in shooting practice on Thursday and warmed up on Friday night, she did not play.
Without Tumolo, the offense fell largely to Traynor, and Traynor responded; she helped the Orange take a 10-9 following a goal by Webster with 18:31 to play.
The Terrapins tied the game on a goal by McPartland with 16:51 left to set up the final long possession.
Maryland had won the regular season meeting, 19-11, on Feb. 17. Since then, the Orange had changed to occasionally using a defense that is a hybrid zone. Primarily, all but one defender played strong positionally and senior Becca Block, the non-zone defender also called a “backer,” chased the ball like a terrier chasing a napkin in a windstorm.
The upshot was that Block, a tall and very quick player, was able to pressure the ball at will. The downside was that with Block chasing the ball and not guarding anyone, Maryland could find an open player with ball movement.
At least three times in the first 35 minutes, a Maryland player drew Block to her and then passed over Block to a cutting teammate for score.
“Syracuse is very fast,” Schwarzmann said. “Becca Block did an awesome job being the backer. . . . A couple times we got caught standing still and that played into the hands of the defense.”
A crucial sequence occurred late in the first half and again involved Schwarzmann.
The Orange closed to 5-4 following a goal on a free position shot by senior Bridget Dailey with 1:16 left.
Maryland had two final possessions in the half. On the first, Schwarzmann drew Block toward her then floated a pass to junior Beth Glaros, who scored on a point-blank shot for a 6-4 lead. And with 11 seconds left, Schwarzmann drew a free position. With Syracuse players tensed and ready to defend her, Schwarzmann instead flicked a pass to Aust who scored from close range for a 7-4 lead.
“Unfortunately the outcome wasn’t the way we wanted,” Orange Coach Gary Gait said. “But we fought hard. We will say goodbye to our seniors and figure out how to get back here next year.”
In the first semifinal, the Wildcats (19-3) were upset after they had won seven of the past eight NCAA titles.
On Friday, Northwestern was undone by free-position shots. It went 0 for 9 and had another player with a free position midway through the second half drop the ball before attempting a shot.
Senior Kara Cannizzaro scored four goals, all in the second half and all in a row, for the Tar Heels.