The Maryland women's lacrosse team made their sixth straight and final appearance in the ACC Tournament Championship game Sunday facing ACC newcomer the Syracuse Orange. The Terps won the first ever tournament and were looking to grab a bookend title to add to their string of five straight ACC Championships. The Orange were looking to claim the title in their first ACC season. In the end, Cathy Reese's squad joined Maryland's other most successful women's program - Missy Meharg's field hockey team - as the only Terrapins' squads to leave the ACC as tournament champions prevailing by a 13-7 final.
Here's just a bit more more history for you. Syracuse played Maryland in the first game in their program's history in 1998 a game the Terps won 21-7. Since then, the teams have met fourteen times with the only Orange win coming in 2012 when they beat Maryland 10-9. Sryacuse coach Gary Gait was an assistant to Cindy Timchal at Maryland for five years. Oh, and the Orange entered the game on an eleven game winning streak and 17-1 on the season. Their onlyly loss came back in March when they fell to the Terps 12-10 in the Carrier Dome.
The game couldn't have started much better for Maryland as Taylor Cummings controlled the opening draw. However, as the Terps worked their offense they failed to cover the first shot. Syracuse coach Gary Gait's strategy became clear early as he had goalie Kelsey Richardson walk the ball nearly to midfield.
Maryland nearly foiled the strategy picking up a turnover but the Orange prevented the Terps from attacking in transition. It didn't prevent Maryland from scoring though as quick ball movement from right to left - passes from Glaros to Cummings to Kelly McPartland to Brooke Griffin resulted in a Terrapins score.
Beth Glaros picked up the ensuing draw and the teams then traded a pair of turnovers with the Terps' coming in the offensive and and the Orange's coming on the attempted clear. Syracuse picked up a yellow card and once again crisp passing got the ball to Griffin who made the most of it scoring her second of the day and putting Maryland up by two.
Syracuse then had a response scoring back to back goals - one coming on a free position - to knot the score at two. The tie didn't last long as Cummings again won the draw and Zoe Stukenberg put the Terps back on top with a spin move to open space and give the Terps the 3-2 lead.
After a draw violation by the Orange, Cummings ripped a shot that hit the pipe and for the second time in the half, the ACC's leading scorer Kayla Treanor, came from behind the net to score her second of the game and tie the score at three all. It was as close as Syracuse would come as the Terps would string together three straight scores.
The Terrapins' run began when McPartland picked up the ground ball on the draw and Syracuse attacked her in the midfield. The junior midfielder used her speed to get free and draw three defenders before she found Griffin wide open in the middle for the one timer. Cummings gave the Terps a two goal edge with a dodge that went right then left then right again before she fired a shot inside the left post.
Goal number six came from McPartland. Jen Mendez picked up a foul but declined the shot on the free position instead passing it off to the junior. McPartland's initial shot bounced of Richardson's chest and the Terps' midfielder picked up the rebound and easily put it home prompting a change in goal for Syracuse.
Following Traenor's third goal of the game, Maryland again opened a three goal margin and again, Griffin and Mende were in the middle of the action. Coming off her seven goal explosion in Friday's semifinal against Virginia and with a first half hat trick on Sunday, Griffin naturally drew a lot of attention when she began a dodge from behind the cage. Mendez slid into the open space in front and a rapid fire pass and shot put the Terrapins up 7-4. Syracuse would score one more off a free position and Maryland would take a 7-5 lead into halftime.
In the first seven minutes of the second half, the Terps put the game away. Cummings got the half off to a good start by continuing Maryland's dominance on the draw where the Terps held an 11-2 advantage in the first half. Just over a minute into the half, Glaros, who had done much of the unsung work picking up ground balls and draws, drew a free position. Richardson, who returned to goal to start the half, made the save but the ball trickled out of the crease and Mendez was perfectly positioned to scoop it in for her second score of the championship game.
Richardson came up with another save on Maryland's next possession on a shot by Cummings but the Orange couldn't penetrate the Terrapins' defense. A strong effort by Alice Mercer marking Syracuse's second leading scorer, Alyssa Murray, eventually led to Nadine Hadnagy creating a turnover and Glaros again picking up the loose ball.
Holding a three goal lead and possession with under twenty-six minutes to play, the Terps turned into a patient offensive squad choosing their spots and working for good shots. While looking for opportunities to score, Maryland held possession for nearly three minutes before Griffin found Cummings wide left along the goal line. The sophomore made her attack, spotted the opening and scored to put the Terps ahead 9-5.
Syracuse won the draw but Abbey Clipp made the save but the official missed a Syracuse player standing on her crosse and called the Maryland goalie for illegally picking up the ball. Traenor made a run from the top but was closely marked by Glaros who forced her right where Cummings made a brilliant stick check causing the turnover and picking up the ground ball.
The Terps again patiently ran through their offensive sets before Cummings tricked up her hat dodging through a pair of ‘Cuse defenders to make the score Maryland ten Syracuse five with 16:29 to play.
After winning a heavily contested draw, Syracuse picked up a sixth goal but Maryland's defense made them run two minutes off the clock to do so.
Having scored three straight to open the half, the Terps repeated the feat over the next ten minutes to open an insurmountable seven goal lead with 4:22 to play. It started with another Maryland draw control. Syracuse created a turnover but as had often happened in the first half, were unable to clear. Cummings came up the the loose ball and, after streaking down the left side, found a wide open Glaros on the right. The senior, who had had a tough day shooting, converted for the first of her two goals on the day.
After the Maryland score, the Orange collected one of their few draws on the day. They had two free position attempts on a long possession but the defense forced the first wide and Clipp made the save on the second. Another long Terrapins' possession led to a long rush from the left by McPartland on a restart and the junior, switching hands twice rang the bell again with a low shot to the right post.
Syracuse picked up another draw but picked up an offensive foul. Again the Terps held the ball for over three and a half minutes before Glaros closed Maryland's scoring on a free position bouncer. With 4:22 to play, the Terps led 13-6. Syracuse would score a late goal to make the score 13-7 and the Terps would run out the clock holding for the last minute and a half.
Griffin, with ten goals and five assists was named the Tournament's Most Valuable Player. Cummings, McPartland, and defenders Alice Mercer and Casey Pepperman joined her on the All-Tournament team. The Terps will now await their draw in the NCAA Tournament.