How to Watch
The game will be broadcast on ESPNU at 8:30 p.m.
Exorcise (Definitions from Dictionary.com)
1. To seek or expel (an evil spirit) by adjuration or religious or solemn ceremonies
2. To free (a person, place, etc.) of evil spirits or malignant influences.
Oh Yes, the Past Can Hurt
I opened with the idea of exorcism because this team still has an evil spirit that clings to them, even after winning the national title last season. That demon is UNC and it came into being after the Terrapins lost in the national championship game to the Tar Heels two years ago.
With a win in the title game, the Maryland women's lacrosse team can kill two birds with one stone by also freeing PPL Park of malignant influences. Last year, the Maryland men's lacrosse team was up by one goal heading into the fourth quarter against Notre Dame in the ACC Championship game and lost 6-5. Two years ago, the Maryland men's soccer team fell 2-1 to Notre Dame in the national championship game. In essence, bad things happen when the Terps play in championship games at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. But that could all change if Maryland takes down North Carolina on Sunday night.
You Can Put the Past Away
In order to put the past behind them and come out on top, Maryland's biggest star will have to shine as bright as ever. Taylor Cummings has only lost three games in her college career and two of them have been to UNC. She scored three goals and had an assist in the title game two years ago when she was just a freshman. She is now the reigning Tewaaraton award winner and is the front-runner to win the award again this season. All eyes will be on Cummings tomorrow. This is her chance to erase perhaps the greatest disappointment in her otherwise heretofore sterling career and exorcise her personal UNC demons in the process.
A little over three months ago, UNC came to College Park as the second ranked team in the country looking to knock off the top-ranked Terrapins. Maryland won the game 13-11 after the game on Saturday was suspended, postponed, and then completely restarted the following day because of inclement weather.
Maryland peppered both Caylee Waters and Megan Ward in that game but didn't have a great shooting percentage as a team. By contrast, UNC had 11 goals on just 16 shots. They were incredibly efficient on offense. However, Maryland did dominate UNC in the draw control battle 18-8. If Maryland wants to have a good shot at winning, they will have to continue to dominate the draw. These teams are not the same ones we saw back in late February.
Very few teams can say that they have beaten Maryland in the last three seasons. The Terrapins have lost once this season, once last season, and once in the season before that. UNC is responsible for two of those losses and two years ago, they beat Maryland on the biggest and brightest stage in triple overtime in the national championship game. They are not afraid of Maryland at all. Brittney Coppa, who returned just one month after tearing her ACL for the second time, has been a big emotional presence for UNC in this tournament. She scored three goals in the title game two years ago but her mobility will be limited in this game. Aly Messinger and Sammy Jo Tracy, the player who scored the game-winning goal in triple overtime, clearly aren't afraid of the moment. Those three players combined for over half of UNC's 13 goals in the championship game two years ago.
UNC is fast and athletic and they fight hard. They match up very well with Maryland and they are efficient on offense. They maximize their opportunities. In the title game two years ago, Maryland had 17 turnovers. In their game in February, the Tar Heels forced the Terps into 11 turnovers but made 12 of their own. Turnovers will be a key factor in this game. Maryland cannot afford to give UNC more opportunities. It doesn't help to win the draw if you give the ball back to the other team. UNC just delivered perhaps their best and most complete performance of the year in a 16-7 drubbing of Duke in order to reach the title game. They are playing their best lacrosse of the year at the perfect time.
"Seize the Day!" There is nothing left but for Maryland and North Carolina to play the game. The best two teams in the country for this entire season will take the field under the lights at PPL Park for 60 minutes and they will play as hard as they possibly can until the buzzer sounds. If need be, they will play even longer than that. At the end, a champion will be crowned.
Maryland seeks a record 13th national title and their second consecutive national championship while UNC looks to win its second title in three years. The only thing higher than the drama is the stakes.
I have watched and covered this team all season long and this is the most talented team in the country. This title is theirs to lose but UNC will not roll over for them. The Tar Heels will fight tooth and nail and will come out and play hard for 60 minutes. In order to win, Maryland must match their intensity while playing smart and playing their style of lacrosse.