There were a number of intriguing story lines going into this match-up of top-five teams. Maryland defeated Syracuse three times last year, the third and final time coming in the national title game, which they won 15-12.
Halle Majorana, a solid contributor off the bench for Maryland on that team, transferred to Syracuse following the season and was returning to College Park to face her former team for the first time.
Kayla Treanor, Megan Douty and Taylor Cummings were all Tewaaraton Award finalists last year and Cummings came away with the hardware. Maryland has only lost once in the all-time series to Syracuse.
Maryland gathered up the game's first draw control and Erin Collins got an eight meter. She missed but the ball stayed with Maryland. Collins got another chance coming across the middle and the ball was nearly saved but it went into the goal. Maryland was up 1-0 just 49 seconds into the game. Erica Bodt responded for the Orange nearly a minute later on a free-position goal.
Early on it was fast-paced and closely contested, exactly the way that a title rematch of top-five teams should be. Taylor Cummings scored off a free position less than 30 seconds later to put Maryland back in front 2-1. Maryland's star freshman Megan Whittle got a great feed from Kristen Lamon and made it look easy on the finish to push the lead to two just inside the 26 minute mark.
Maryland goalie Alex Fitzpatrick made a save on a Syracuse free position attempt but Syracuse got the ball back. Fitzpatrick made another save and Maryland took over possession. Maryland turned it over on offense and Syracuse went back to work. Megan Douty and the Maryland defense turned up the pressure and caused a turnover to retake possession. Brooke Griffin missed on a free position attempt but Megan Whittle earned a free position of her own from the 12 meter. Whittle pulled it back out but a bad pass resulted in a Maryland turnover.
Halle Majorana, playing against her former team, made an impact by scoring at the 16:50 mark to bring Syracuse to within one. Kelsey Richardson, Syracuse's senior goalie, made two incredible saves for the Orange within a span of 15 seconds. Erin Collins scored her second goal of the game on a great bounce shot off a feed from Zoe Stukenberg. Kelsey Richardson made two saves against Taylor Cummings in a 30 second span.
Kayla Treanor scored at the 5:46 mark to take sole possession of fifth place on the Syracuse career goals list and trim the Maryland lead to one. Taylor Cummings answered with 4:10 left with her second goal of the game to give Maryland a 5-3 lead.
Taylor Cummings earned a hat-trick after slicing her way through the Syracuse defense on an eight meter. Her goal gave Maryland a 6-3 lead with 1:24 left in the first half. Cummings then added an assist to her three goals, finding Kristen Lamon for a goal with 31 seconds left in the half. Syracuse had a last second goal wiped out because their player stepped in the crease area while shooting. Maryland went into the break leading 7-3.
Richardson was fantastic for Syracuse in the first half with 11 saves and she helped to hold Maryland to seven goals on 20 shots. Cummings led the way for the Terps with three goals and an assist. Her impact was felt on both sides of the field.
Maryland captured the first draw control of the second half. Richardson made another great save on a shot by Megan Whittle. Kayla Treanor scored the first goal of the half for Syracuse. Treanor then made a certifiably insane, SportsCenter-worthy, behind-the-back goal to bring the Orange within two. That gave her a hat trick for the game. Majorana got carded and had to go back to the sideline, leaving Maryland up a player. Treanor got Megan Douty to bite just enough to freeze her up. Treanor then wrapped around the goal and scored low from the left side to make it 7-6.
Cummings earned the draw control and then took it all the way for the goal. She and Treanor both had four goals apiece with 23:40 left in the game. Majorana then scored her second goal of the game against her former team with just under 21 minutes to play to bring Syracuse back within one.
The Orange seemed to tie it up on a goal from Taylor Poplawski but the goal was wiped out after Reese called for a stick check and the refs determined that the stick used to score the goal was illegal. So instead of tying the game 8-8, the Orange trailed 8-7. Just as she did before, Cummings got the ball, took it herself through traffic and scored. Syracuse couldn't convert on a fast break and Maryland took over possession with under 19 minutes to play.
Whittle earned an eight meter free position but her shot was off-target. Maryland kept possession but they missed on a cross and gave it back to Syracuse. The Terps lucked out because Syracuse made a bad pass in the midfield and turned it over as well. Kristen Lamon's ensuing shot went off the pipe but Taylor Cummings tracked it down and got possession back for Maryland.
Maryland's goalie Alex Fitzpatrick gave Maryland a stop and then Cummings scored her sixth goal of the game on an amazing shot where she jumped and shot it top-shelf to give the Terps a 10-7 lead with 12:03 left to play. Megan Douty showed why she was a Tewaaraton award finalist last season, defending Treanor during a big possession and forcing her into a bad pass, which went out of bounds. Maryland then took a lot of time off the clock. Zoe Stukenberg's shot went off the left post but the Terps got it back.
Richardson made another fantastic save to get Syracuse the ball back. Treanor couldn't corral a bad pass and Maryland took over. Syracuse head coach Gary Gait was assessed a yellow card after voicing his displeasure with officials and Syracuse went down a player. Syracuse would be back at full strength with 2:17 left in the game. Maryland ran out the remainder of the clock and absolutely dominated time of possession in the last eight or nine minutes of the game to win 10-7. "It's a good win for us against a really strong Syracuse team," said Maryland head coach Cathy Reese following the game.
Taylor Cummings was a dominant two-way force for the Terps and showed why she was the youngest ever to win the Tewaaraton Award. She scored six of Maryland's ten goals, had an assist and six draw controls. Cummings' performance in the face-off circle gave Maryland a slight but important edge in draw controls, 11-8. She and Treanor were in a great battle for much of the game, each trying to outdo the other. Treanor seemed to put Syracuse on her back at times offensively, scoring four goals and bringing the Orange within striking range of Maryland time and time again. Her behind-the-back goal was SportsCenter top-10 worthy.
But I think that while Cummings and Treanor dazzled with their offense, the overlooked heroes in this game were the goalies. Alex Fitzpatrick played a fantastic game for Maryland and Kelsey Richardson was playing at an unconscious level in goal for Syracuse. Richardson and the Syracuse defense held Maryland to 33 percent shooting. She made 16 saves on 30 shots and only allowed 10 goals. Fitzpatrick made eight saves in the game and only allowed seven goals on 20 shots. "It's exciting and I never thought I'd have the opportunity to come here and compete with the best girls in the nation, let alone be a part of one of the best teams in the nation."
Majorana came into the game with the second most assists in the country and Maryland held her without an assist. However, she did score two goals against her former team. Kailah Kempney is Syracuse's all-time leader in draw controls. She came in averaging 9.83 per game and Maryland held her to just three. The Orange came in averaging 18.33 draw controls per game and 15.5 goals per game and left with just eight draw controls and just seven goals. Maryland was great in the circle and they were dominant on defense, forcing the Orange into 15 turnovers.
This team has beaten two top-five teams so far this season but this team still has a lot of room to improve. Reese thought the offense needed a lot of work, saying, "Our shooting was not particularly good...Our shooting isn't where it needs to be and it's something we need to focus on."
You can probably pencil in Taylor Cummings to win the Tewaaraton Award again this year if she keeps playing the way she has been. She had four goals against UMBC on Wednesday and another six today, giving her ten on the week.
We have not seen Maryland's best lacrosse this season and we certainly haven't seen them play to their potential on offense. When this team figures that piece out and starts firing on all cylinders, watch out.