Well, it’s about 1:30 Saturday morning as I begin to write this having just walked into my house returning from Philadelphia where the Terps maintained their hopes for an eleventh national championship by eking out an 11-10 win over the Syracuse Orange at Villanova. There were a number of officiating decisions that confused me and I’m going to try to take a look at the ESPN replays so I can write with some clarity. One last personal note: This is the last lacrosse game to which I’m going to invite my friend Arnie to attend with me. We rode together to Chapel Hill for the ACC Championship game and sat in a cold rain. He came to the Duke game last weekend and we sat through more rain. Tonight at Villanova, though we only felt some light drizzle beginning with just under ten minutes to go in the game, it was absurdly cold for May 24th. The wind chill had to be in the low forties. So, Arnie, even though we’re 3-0, “No soup for you!” Now on to the game.
Alex Aust picked up the opening draw for Maryland and the Terps settled into their offense wanting, though it would prove unsuccessful, to rid themselves of their semi-final jitters. The Terps turned the ball over but a long soft lob pass by the Orange toward the eight meter gave the ball back to Maryland. Terrapin freshman star Taylor Cumming took advantage breaking through a double team down the right side and finding the net for a 1-0 Maryland lead. The Terps controlled the draw and quick passing through and around the Syracuse defense led to an apparent goal by Katie Schwarzmann. However, a shooting space foul whistled just before she released the shot negated the score. She missed the ensuing free position wide and with the Terps not in good backup position, Syracuse regained possession. The Orange were called for a foul on their possession and the Terps countered quickly. With Aust camped in front of the crease, Kelly McPartland fed her from behind the goal for a quick shot and a 2-0 Terrapin lead. After Cummings controlled the draw, McPartland had a chance for a free position shot but her attempt was saved and Syracuse quickly countered scoring with a shot into the top right corner to cut Maryland’s lead in half.
Each squad then engaged in a bit of turnover-it is with the last of three coming when Beth Glaros forced a turnover with a back check along the sideline. A three second call gave Cummings a free position and she capitalized for the Terrapins first free position score of the night. Syracuse’s aggressive defense in the midfield after resulted in a Maryland turnover. The Orange shot from a difficult angle hit the side of the net and Howard picked up the ground ball but a long lazy pass on the clear attempt gave the ball right back and Syracuse took advantage scoring to again close to within one.
Alice Mercer picked up the draw for Maryland but Glaros and McPartland had their shots saved. The Syracuse shot attempt on their possession went wide and Schwarzmann, demonstrating why she doesn’t need to score to be a Tewaaraton finalist, outraced the Orange to the line to get Maryland possession. She would demonstrate this again in the second half but more on that later. In this instance, the Terps took advantage as Aust found Glaros near the eight meter mark and Glaros dodged in to score from about three yards. But, as they had throughout the half, Syracuse responded with a score of their own to stay within one at 4-3. The Orange had a chance to tie when they controlled the draw but solid Terrapin defense led by National Defensive Player of the Year Iliana Sanza blocked the shot and Howard handled the ground ball. After Glaros’ shot hit the post, the Terps recovered and Aust, after having the ball checked out of her stick in front of the net, recovered and flipped the ball to Schwarzmann who scored for a 5-3 lead.
Kasey Howard came up with a big save on a point blank shot. Schwarzmann declined the shot on a free position chance but worked the ball around to McPartland who dodged from the left and scored for an apparent 6-3 Terrapin lead. The officials called for all the players to drop their sticks and ruled that McPartland didn’t drop hers quickly enough and ruled the crosse illegal negating the goal. Syracuse again countered scoring off a free position but after winning the draw, the Terps bounced back quicly with Schwarzmann passing from the left to a cutting Glaros who made a nice catch and quick score with 35 seconds left in the half. The Terps attacked quickly after controlling the draw and Schwarzmann drew a shooting space foul. She passed to Aust who was standing by the crease. Aust faked high and shot low and Maryland led 7-4 going into the break.
The second half started inauspiciously for Maryland as Syracuse controlled the draw and scored just seventeen seconds into the half and after Glaros controlled the draw for Maryland the Terps quickly turned the ball over on a lazy pass behind the goal. The Terps worked hard on the re-defend and trapped Syracuse along the sideline but a crucial time out called by Syracuse coach Gary Gait preserved the possession for the Orange and less than a minute later they were back within one at 7-6 and the night began to feel colder. Aust controlled the draw for Maryalnd but McPartland lost the ball on a back check. A long Syracuse pass floated high and Alisce Mercer picked up the bouncer. The turnover paid quick dividends as McPartland made a twisting run down the middle splitting two Syracuse defenders for the score. Cummings controlled the next draw high to her own crosse and McPartland picked up a foul attacking the goal. She converted the ensuing free position and Maryalnd’s lead was back to three as the teams combined for four goals in the first five minutes of the half.
Maryland’s struggles continued as Syracuse took the next three draws and turned each into a goal tying the game at nine with 21 minutes to go in the game. Glaros finally captured a draw for the Terrapins but Cummings face dodge yielded an excellent shot but no score. With 18:32 left, Syracuse scored to take the lead for the first time in the game. The goal marked a first and a last. To this point in the season, Maryland had played in 22 second halves of games and the 9-10 deficit marked the first time the Terps trailed in any of them. The goal would be the last score of the night for the Orange.
Syracuse again contolled the draw but the officials spotted too many Orange players on the field and Maryland regained possession. Aust came from behind the cage and flipped the ball to McPartland who again split two Syracuse defenders dodging and weaving to notch the hat trick scoring all three of Maryland’s goals to this point in the second half. The score stood at ten all with just under seventeen remaining. Though neither team scored for about fourteen minutes they engaged in some spirited play.
After Syracuse was called for an illegal screen, Mercer was fouled trying to clear. I note this foul because Mercer was knocked on the head but no yellow card was forthcoming. Still feeling the effects, she lofted an errant pass toward the eight meter circle but Aust hustled it down beating two Orange defenders. Cummings followed with a strong dodge down the middle but Syracuse’s goalie made the big save. During the next sequence, Schwarzmann again demonstrated how she can dominate without scoring. In this instance her play occurred on the defensive end first preventing one of Syracuse’s top scorers from getting a scoring chance with strong footwork then using her speed coming from behind to outrace a Syracuse player the sideline and her stick skills to pick up a ground ball after the defense had checked it loose. Coach Reese called a timeout with Schwarzmann trapped in the corner by three Orange defenders. Three quick passes later, Syracuse was hit with the first of their four yellow cards over the last thirteen minutes. Schwarzmann made a strong run down the middle but had her high shot saved. The Orange killed the penalty. With about ten minutes to go it began to drizzle. Now in addition to the tension and the cold everyone had to cope with the damp. With seven minutes left, Erin Collins garnered a free position chance and her bouncing shot went wide. The official on the play ruled Maryland possession on the backup but the fourth official or the field referee from the far side appeared to overrule the call from midfield claiming that Aust was out of bounds and awarding possession to the Orange. Maryalnd grabbed the ball back on the re-defend with a solid check. After Austs’s shot went wide, Glaros picked up a free position chance with the player advantage but in a case of déjà vu, her bouncer went wide and the official again ruled that Maryland was out of bounds and awarded Syracuse possession. Stron pressure from Aust forced another turnover. The Terps patiently ran their offense probing the Orange zone until three quick passes beginning with Aust from behind to Schwarzmann at the top of the circle who took one step and hit Brooke Griffin in front of the crease. Griffin pivoted and found the back of the net with what would prove to be the game winning goal with 2:51 to play. Cumming controlled the very crucial ensuing draw and Maryland ran out the clock to advance to Sunday’s championship game for the third time in four years. Rather than facing Northwestern as they had in the prior two, the Terps will take on North Carolina for the third time this season.
My recap will again be late as I will be riding the Terrapin Club bus back to Radnor Township and face off is at 8:00 pm making for another very late night.
Todd Carton (AKA FHFAN)