One For The Thumb: WLAX Brings Home Fifth Consecutive ACC Title

One of the themes for this season’s Maryland Women’s Lacrosse team has been: Strive for Five with the goal of capturing their fifth consecutive ACC Tournament title. Mission accomplished. The Terps went into a soggy Fetzer Field on the campus of the University of North Carolina’s campus in Chapel Hill Sunday and handled the host school by a final score of 12-8. Normally, I combine my recaps to conserve time and posting space but, hey, this is the ACC Championship folks. And, since I schlepped myself to North Carolina and back on Sunday, I will likely have a more detailed write-up than usual.

The rain started at least an hour before game time and continued steadily in varying degrees of force throughout. In deference to the hosts, who were pleasant and polite (and to the parking attendant who let me out of the lot gratis on my request that I be able to park for free since the Terps won, I’ll say that the weather factored into the sparse but spirited attendance – announced at 657 but probably closer to half that – armed with ponchos and umbrellas. Carolina fans may have had a slight edge in numbers but Terrapin fans were well represented and quite vocal.

Freshman All-ACC performer Taylor Cummings stood on the line for the opening draw and controlled it. UNC came out aggressively on defense using double teams to pressure the Terps back into their defensive end and forcing Maryland to use over forty seconds before crossing the thirty yard line. The Terps worked their offense and drew an early free position chance for Beth Glaros that the UNC goalie saved. Maryland picked up the ground ball and began to work the offense again with both teams gingerly feeling their way around the soggy and slippery field. When a Tar Heel defender knocked the ball from Brooke Griffin’s crosse as she attempted a shot, it appeared the Terps had turned it over. But Maryland answered with pressure of their own and Tournament MVP Katie Schwarzmann madder her first impact play of the day stepping in and intercepting the attempted crossing pass then turning and finding Griffin in flashing in front of the goal for an open shot from about four yards out and the Terps led 1-0 three minutes in. Glaros drew a foul controlling the subsequent draw and on the restart quickly got the ball to Kelly McPartland who outraced the Carolina defense for another scoring chance but her shot sailed just high. UNC then forced a turnover that gave them their first possession of the game. The Heels attacked quickly and had a dangerous chance from five yards straight on but goalie Kasey Howard mad a tremendous save and McPartland picked up the ground ball and raced downfield ahead of the Carolina defense but was fouled to slow her momentum and give UNC a chance to recover. Alex Aust hit Schwarzmann with a pass and rolled wide after the pick opening some space for Griffin to flash from behind the net but Carolina’s goalie picked up her low shot from just in front of the crease. After the clear, the Heels quickly tied the game on a low shot between Howard’s legs.

A Maryland foul on the draw gave Carolina possession. The home team held the ball for a long possession of over three minutes saving two potential turnovers by picking up two ground balls before Howard save a shot at her knees from about seven yards straight on and Iliana Sanza picked up the ground ball for the Terrapins who, as is their wont, countered quickly. A Carolina defender deflected Schwarzmann’s shot attempt barely 45 seconds into the possession but the ball drifted straight to Griffin behind the net. Griffin hit Aust who also had her shot deflected. On a free position chance, Cummings passed across the 10 meter circle to Griffin whose shot was blocked by the Tar hell goalie with the Terps retaining possession. Schwarzmann’s shot deflected wide over the sideline and on the restart freshman Halle Majorana found Cummings open in front of the goal and she capitalized on the easy chance. Carolina controlled the draw and worked the ball for a good shot and the tying goal. UNC again controlled the draw but Melissa Diepold forced a turnover but the Tar Heel defense countered with a forced turnover of their own. The quick counter led to a free position chance for the host team but Howard stood strong and made the save on the high shot. Carolina’s defense created another turnover on the Terrapins attempt to clear. UNC worked for an open shot that hit the crossbar but controlled the carom to maintain possession and generate another free position attempt. Carolina elected to pass rather than shoot and Howard came up with a big save again on a rush from her left. The Terps worked the ball around on offense but the Heels again forced a turnover. Maryland missed an opportunity on the clear when a Carolina player slipped but the Terps couldn’t control the free ground ball. Carolina’s second leading scorer curled from behind the net to Howard’s left but the senior goalie again came up with the big save. Maryland failed to clear and the Tar Heels leading scorer, who was marked by Schwarzmann for much of the game, notched her only goal of the contest on a free position shot giving the hosts their only lead of the game. Carolina controlled the draw and tried to spread Maryland’s defense but Alice Mercer forced the turnover and Megan Doughty picked up the ground ball and passed it ahead to Mercer. Mercer got it ahead to Schwarzmann to raced ahead of the Tar Heel defense setting up a chance for Glaros who was fouled before she could get off a shot. She took full advantage of the free position chance firing it low and just inside the right post to tie the score with 8:49 to go in the half.

The officials spotted another Maryland foul on the draw giving Carolina control. After a wide shot, the Terps caught a break from the referees when a Tar Heel was called for being in the crease but it appeared she had a bit of help from a Maryland defender. Following the clear, the Terrapins had a free position chance but the Tar Heel defense deflected Erin Collins’s shot and the goalie picked up the easy save. However, on UNC’s attempt to clear, McPartland tipped a pass and picked up the ground ball. She found Aust who used her speed to get behind the Carolina defense and the senior put Maryland in front to stay. Carolina got another officials aided draw control but the Terps defense forced an errant pass that the Heels controlled by virtue of an obvious offside that caused the Maryland fans to erupt with the call in unison. Howard picked up another save with just over two minutes to go UNC was called for a fouls a Maryland attempted to pick up the ground ball. Diepold started things off with a pass to Mercer who raced downfield and hit Glaros for the score in a rush that needed less than ten seconds. Schwarzmann would pick up a yellow card with two seconds remaining in the half but the Terps held a 5-3 lead at the break.

Carolina controlled the opening draw of the half and Howard picked up one of only two saves early in the half to help the Terps kill off the Tar Hell power play. On her return, Schwarzmann wasted little time making a contribution as the Terps spread their offense wide and as she drew the defense toward her passes across the ten meter to a wide open Griffin for the easy goal. UNC was called for starting early on the draw and Cummings, given a wide berth of open field took the ball wide down the right side made a strong didge to the goal and just 13 seconds after Griffin’s goal, the Terps had a 7-3 lead and the Tar Heels had to call a time out. Cummings controlled the draw and the Terps ran their offense and Griffin triggering from behind to a cutting Aust whose shot went just high. Following a free position reset, Aust had the ball knocked from her stick but Aust, with Cummings and Griffin forced a turnover on the attempted clear. Cummings picked up the ground ball and centered the ball to McPartland whose pass went just over Aust’s crosse but landed in Griffin’s who notched the hat trick with the goal. Carolina would score to cut the lead to 8-4 UNC again controlled the draw but Howard intercepted a high pass and the Terps got things started again. The Heels were caught offsides but Cummings’s shot went just wide. Griffin found Aust cutting off two screens and she found the net for the second time in the title game. Beth Glaros was whacked in the head trrying to control the subsequent draw and UNC was assessed a yellow card. McPartland drew a foul and Glaros earned her hat trick on the free position pushing the Maryland lead to 10-4 only 57 seconds after they had scored their ninth goal. Taking a page from the Tar Heels book, the Terrapins defense forced Carolina behind their own 30 on the draw and an errant pass on the clear gave the Terps possession when Cummings picked up the ground ball. Schwarzmann working from behind the net flicked a high pass to Erin Collins who used her height advantage to rip the net and with 19:30 remaining, the Terrapin lead stood at seven.

Cummings was called for moving early on the draw bu Sanza drew a charging foul on Carolina. The Terps turned it back over as McPartland had the ball knocked out from behind. Carolina fell on their shot attempt and Howard picked up the easy save. The Terps cleared the ball and ran a long possession showing real patience on offense but UNC eventually forced a turnover when Schwarzmann couldn’t get a clear shot. The Terps picked up another turnover in the midfield with McPartland picking up the ground ball. It took just to passes – McPartland to Schwarzmann and Schwarzmann to Cummings for Maryland to open an eight goal lead at 12-4 with just over fourteen minutes remaining.

The Terps tried to slow the pace over the remaining time but they are not a team built to play slowly and combined with aggressiveness and desperation by UNC, the Tar Hells scored the final four goals to make the final score a more respectable 12-8. The Terps eventually were able to run out the clock and bring the championship trophy home to College Park for the fifth consecutive year. Alex Aust, Taylor Cummings, Beth Glaros, Brooke Griffin, and Kasey Howard joined Schwarzmann on the all-tournament team. Next up for the Terps, the NCAA Tournament.

Todd Carton (AKA FHFAN)

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