Maryland Throttles Northwestern, Will Meet BC In Title Game

Maryland Throttles Northwestern, Will Meet BC In Title Game

For US Lacrosse magazine

BALTIMORE — There’s a championship-caliber attribute called depth, and then there’s whatever the Maryland women’s lacrosse team has.

Maybe it’s “Turtle… Power,” just one of the many phrases the friends and family of the top-seeded Terrapins chanted into the cool Friday night air during their national semifinal game against Northwestern at Homewood Field.

Whatever you want to call it, it has Maryland headed back to the national title game.

Junior attacker Brindi Griffin, the team’s eighth-leading goal scorer, notched a game-high six goals, Grace Griffin (no relation) tallied four and Tewaaraton Award finalist Jen Giles and attacker Erica Evans had just simple hat tricks, as the Terps never trailed in a 25-13 win over the fourth-seeded Wildcats in front of a partisan home-state crowd of 8,508.

The result emphatically avenged Maryland’s lone loss of the season, to Northwestern in the Big Ten title game three weeks ago, on the very same field. The 25 goals are an NCAA Division I women’s semifinal record. But it wasn’t exactly as lopsided as the final score indicated, at least for three-quarters of the contest.

Maryland (21-1) led by only three, 16-13, with 19:06 left, but with a backbreaking second-half scoring spree the Terps’ managed to get the game into running time, going ahead by 10 goals, less than nine minutes later.

The Terps will play Boston College for the national title at noon Sunday back at Johns Hopkins. The second-seeded Eagles (22-1) beat third-seeded North Carolina 15-14 in double overtime in the first game of Friday night’s national semifinal doubleheader.

That drama, coupled with a shot clock that somehow broke between games (a backup was brought in), caused the start of the nightcap to start 96 minutes behind schedule, at 9:06 p.m. Eastern.

Not that any of the college kids playing cared. And by the time the game ended close to 11:30 p.m., the Terps still had enough energy, or power, to jump and dance in victory, and mob their head coach Cathy Reese after her post-game television interview.

“It’s late, we’re tired, but wow, that was a heck of an effort,” Reese said later, past midnight during the post-game press conference inside Johns Hopkins’ athletic center. “To come off a Big Ten championship loss to Northwestern, where we struggled offensively in that game [scoring 11 goals], to make the changes that we did over the past few weeks, and really have our foot on the gas the entire time tonight, it’s something I’m really proud of.

“We had a bunch of different scorers. We shot well tonight, we defended well. Overall, it was a great night for the Terps.”

Eight different players had multi-goal games for Maryland, which shot 25-for-39 and started the game 7-for-7. And even senior defender Julia Braig got in on the action with her first career goal. She picked off a pass at the top of the Northwestern zone at the start of a clear, and dashed back at Wildcats goalie Mallory Weisse and scored to make it 8-5 with 13:07 left in the first half.

Northwestern (16-5) stayed within striking distance, meaning three or four goals, through most of the first half and the early part of the second, thanks to Brennan Dwyer’s draw controls (nine) and a five-goal outburst from freshman Izzy Scane, a U.S. under-19 women’s training team member.

But with its efficient shooting, including 6-for-8 on free-position shots — a point of emphasis in Maryland’s practices since the 16-11 loss to Northwestern on May 5 —  and 14 saves from Tewaaraton Award finalist goalie Megan Taylor, the Terps were always a step ahead. And then they pulled away.

“[Maryland was] firing on all cylinders,” Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “They were very motivated. We stayed in it, fought back, and then we lost it a bit. In these situations, you really need everyone to step up — role players, everyone — in order to win a game like this. We didn’t do that today, and they really did. You can see it by the stat sheet. A defender had the first goal of her career. They’re a tough team to beat when everyone shows up.”

Brindi Griffin’s six-pack, for instance, was a career high, and a nice follow-up to a four-goal, two-assist game in Maryland’s quarterfinal win over Denver.

“It was everybody out there making plays for each other,” she said. “I was lucky I was out there playing with all those girls. Everybody was working together, cutting through. It was such a fun environment to be a part of.”

At the key area of draw controls, Kali Hartshorn, Lizzie Colson and Erica Evans had five apiece for Maryland. And, elsewhere, Northwestern shot 1-for-7 on free-positions.

Notably, the remarkable career of Northwestern’s four-time Tewaaraton nominee and 2019 finalist Selena Lasota comes to end with the Wildcats’ loss. Lasota, the program’s career goals leader, scored three times Friday night, finishing one goal shy of tying Shannon Smith’s single-season Northwestern record for scores in a season (86).

Amonte Hiller gave her a lot of credit for Northwestern reaching its first final four since 2014 — “She’s a really, really special kid,” she said — although Lasota deflected it.

“This team was absolutely amazing to be a part of,” Lasota said. “Today didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but to experience this is really great.”

Meanwhile, after a brief one-year hiatus, Maryland is headed back to the national championship game for ninth time in Reese’s 11 seasons leading the Terps.

The final four win Friday night was the 300th of her career, which started at Denver. When asked afterward if it was the Maryland’s best offensive performance in an NCAA tournament game since her tenure there began in 2007, Reese said, “I think so.”

Call it a plan.

“We want to be a team where any of the seven players on the field can score,” said Reese, who earlier this week was announced as a National Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee. “I know that’s probably what a lot of teams look to have, but different teams give you different looks. … For everybody to just have the confidence in their teammates and themselves to take those opportunities, that’s what we’ve really been encouraging all week. Believe in yourselves, believe in the people around you, and work hard to get open for each other. They did that today.”

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