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NCAA women's lacrosse Final Four: Maryland moves on to title game with 9-6 win over Northwestern

Maryland and Northwestern met on Championship weekend for the fourth time in five years. Riding the back of a stout defense and a Kelly McPartland hat trick, the Terps advanced to the championship game and a rematch with Syracuse with a 9-6 win.

Opening draw of the NCAA semifinal against Northwester
Opening draw of the NCAA semifinal against Northwester

The Maryland Terrapins and the Northwestern Wildcats faced off in the semifinal of the NCAA women's lacrosse tournament at Johnny Unitas Stadium on the campus of Towson University Friday night. The two teams are simultaneously strangely familiar and familiarly strange to each other. They don't play in the regular season but met on championship weekend for the fourth time in the last five years. Entering Friday's contest, Northwestern held a 2-1 advantage in the three previous match-ups. Leaving Friday's contest, the Terps squared things up taking a 9-6 win on to Sunday's title game.

The Wildcats won the hotly contested opening draw with Spring Sanders picking up the ground ball along the sideline. Northwestern's first shot went wide and Abbey Clipp notched her first save of the game on their second try.

On their first possession, the Terps grabbed a 1-0 lead. Brooke Griffin, running the offense from behind the net spotted Taylor Cummings breaking past her defender down the right alley and the sophomore put a one timer past Wildcats' goalie Bridget Bianco. Though the Wildcats won the second draw, the Terps defense forced a turnover. Kelly McPartland had a goal waved off for being in the crease and after a turnover by each squad Northwestern evened the score on a goal by Jess Carroll who found a gap in the middle of Maryland's defense.

Taking their third straight draw, the Wildcats grabbed a 2-1 lead on a maryland defensive breakdown. Cummings picked up her first draw but the Terps failed to convert. Clipp grabbed her second save on a Northwestern free position. McPartland had a free position chance for Maryland and had the goal waved off when Northwestern was called for a shooting space violation which immediately kills the play (even if the ball has left the offensive player's crosse). Bianco made the save on McPartland's second attempt.

With 12;29 to play, Maryland finally go the equalizer as Griffin cutting across in front of the crease. Maryland also had possession as McPartland was fouled by Haydyn Anigian after the shot. However, Bianco made a terrific save on Zoe Stukenberg's shot and the score remained tied.

The Wildcats turned the possession around but Clipp came up with save number three, this time an easy pick-up on a high shot by Turner. Thirty-nine seconds after they took possession, Maryland took the lead. This time, instead of passing, Griffin got inside her defender and put the ball in the net.

Though Glaros won another hotly contested draw, Bianco came up big again for Northwestern on a low bouncer by Erin Collins from just outside the crease. Maryland's defense forced a Northwestern turnover and the Terps ran the same play that resulted in the first goal but Cummings' shot hit the crossbar. The Wildcats then forced a turnover but Clipp on a shot by Kat DeRonda.

McPartland's tough night continued as Bianco made a save on a high free position attempt. Again, it was the Terrapins' defense that stepped up and this time McPartland made the most of a pass from Glaros and the Terps extended their run to three. The run continued as Zoe Stukenberg scored on a free position and Maryland took a 5-2 lead finishing the half on a 4-0 run that spanned the final twelve and a half minutes.

Maryland came up with the draw to start the second half and after a Bianco save, Griffin nearly netted a spectacular over the shoulder shot. However, it sailed just high and went uncovered. Facing intense pressure, the Wildcats failed to clear for the first time in the game. The Terps couldn't take advantage as they werre called for an illegal screen.

Northwestern broke their twenty nine and a half minute scoring drought on a free position goal by Alyssa Murray. Just over a minute later, Beth Glaros put the Terps back in front by three at 6-3 cutting across the eight meter from the left and making a lunging shot.

The squads went quiet for the next seven minutes or so but with 16:19 to play, McPartland turned into a facilitator. After making a double move from about eighteen yards, she saw Stukenberg flashing down the left alley and the freshman wasted no time extending Maryland's lead to four.

After a media timeout and a Northwestern foul on the draw, Griffin took a pass from Glaros. Fifteen seconds after they had extended the lead to four a sidearm shot from the redshirt junior made it 8-3 Terps. Maryland's defense forced another Wildcats' turnover but Bianco made another save on a free position attempt by Glaros.

Northwestern broke their fifteen minute scoring drought on a strong dodge by Kara Mupo. Though Megan Douty forced her into a tough angle, the junior shot around Douty and registered the Wildcats' fourth goal of the night. Once again, the Terrapins' defense and Kelly McPartland had the answer. The defense forced a turnover and McPartland picked up the hat trick.

Glaros picked up the draw and the Terps had an opportunity to reach double digits and open a six goal lead but Griffin's point blank shot went high. The Wildcats took advantage closed to within 9-5 on a goal by Kelly Rich. A Maryland turnover by Zoe Stukenberg led to another Mupo goal and with just over four minutes to play and a game that looked like it was more or less wrapped up began to get interesting.

But Cummings won the draw and Alyssa Murray picked up a yellow card with a check to the head on Casey Pepperman. Maryland was content to hold the ball even after the Wildcats picked up a second yellow card with just over two minutes to play and a third with 1:05 remaining. The Terps ran out the game and advanced to face Syracuse for the third time taking the 9-6 win.