Maryland women's lacrosse will host UMass on Sunday afternoon in College Park at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex. The stakes are high. The winning team will advance to the Final Four in Philadelphia.
The road so far
The Terrapins are undefeated at 20-0 and earned the top overall seed in the tournament. After a first round bye, they beat Johns Hopkins, 14-8, in the second round. Maryland will be looking for its eighth straight Final Four berth.
The UMass Minutewomen (20-1) are in the NCAA quarterfinals for the first time since 1984. The A-10 champions have now won 16 games in a row after beating No. 16 Princeton, 13-12, in overtime and No. 13 Cornell, 7-6, in the second round. Their 20 wins tied the UMass single-season record.
Whom to watch out for on UMass
While Maryland put five players on the IWLCA All-American team, the Minutewomen have a couple of All-Americans too. Senior attacker Erika Eipp was named to the second team, and junior midfielder Hannah Murphy was named to the third team.
Eipp, the two-time defending A-10 Offensive Player of the Year, is second on the UMass career points list. She can score and distribute. Eipp is second nationally in assists with 53 and is third nationally in points with 95. Her 53 assists was a UMass and A-10 single-season record. Eipp is one of the nation's best facilitators.
Murphy, the two-time defending A-10 Midfielder of the Year, rewrote the UMass record books when it comes to draw controls. She has 149 draws so far this season. That mark wasn't just a A-10 single-season record; it also shattered her own UMass single-season record of 113. Murphy is in the top-15 for draw controls in NCAA history. Considering that she still has one year left, Murphy should finish her career in the top-five in NCAA history. She is definitely one of the nation's best draw control specialists.
Whom to watch out for on Maryland
Maryland will counter Murphy with one of the greatest players to ever play the sport in Taylor Cummings. While Murphy ranks 12th on the all-time draw controls list, Cummings is tied for third.
Cummings has fewer points than she did last year at this time, but she has continued to evolve as a player. She has dominated the game in the draw circle, on offense and on defense. Cummings ranks in the top-15 nationally in goals, draw controls, ground balls and caused turnovers.
Alice Mercer will probably draw the assignment on Eipp. The first team All-American is arguably the best lock-down defender in the country and has consistently neutralized some of the nation's best attackers throughout the season.
Freshman Megan Taylor will face one of the biggest challenges of her young career. The Big Ten Goalie of the Year has shined this season as the Terrapins have yet to allow 10 goals in a game.
Notes and quotes
The battle between Cummings and Murphy in the circle should be a fun one to watch. Last year, Maryland hosted UMass in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Cummings and the Terps crushed Murphy and UMass in the draw control battle, 22-7, in a 19-8 win. Eipp and Maryland's Megan Whittle both recorded four goals and an assist in the game while Cummings added a hat trick and an assist.
This game will showcase two of the nation's most balanced teams.
Maryland has the nation's top-ranked scoring offense and UMass' scoring offense is ranked third. While the Terps have seven players that have scored at least 20 goals this season, UMass actually has seven players that have scored at least 30 goals this season. Six Minutewomen have at least 10 assists this season as well. This team is dangerous offensively and can score and distribute.
UMass has the nation's third-ranked scoring defense and Maryland's scoring defense is ranked sixth. Both teams start freshman goalies, but UMass actually plays two goalies, freshman Sam Walters and sophomore Aileen Kelly. The pair have played in all 21 games this season with Walters getting all of the starts and Kelly replacing her in the second half.
Maryland head coach Cathy Reese said she expects defender Alex McKay to be ready for the UMass game after sitting out against Johns Hopkins due to injury.
Earlier this week, Reese said that this team has done a great job of making in-game adjustments. "I think our offense this season has done a really good job of adapting to whatever style of defense is facing us."
Reese added that this team needs to have an aggressive mentality. "There's no time to take a play off. We've got to make sure that we have our foot on the gas the entire time." The little things are just as important to Reese. "Details matter. Every possession matters. Every shot that we take matters."
Junior midfielder and captain Zoe Stukenberg said that NCAA Tournament games aren't always pretty. "You do what you need to do to win. It's not perfect. It's not super pretty, but you make it happen. You come out on top, and that's what matters."
Reese said that she, her staff and her team don't take where they are for granted. "Our program is one of eight left. Eight left that are still competing out of over 100 Division I programs. That's something to be proud of...In this moment, let's be proud of what we've accomplished, but let's not settle for being there."
How to watch:
When: Sunday, May 21st at Noon.
Where: Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park, MD
TV: Big Ten Network