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NCAA Tournament national semifinal preview: No. 2-seed Maryland women’s lacrosse vs. No. 3-seed Boston College

The Terps kick off Final Four weekend against an ACC powerhouse.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

The stage has been set for Maryland women’s lacrosse to capture its 15th national championship. After defeating No. 7-seed Florida, 18-5, in front of their home crowd at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, the Terps advanced to their 28th Final Four and their 12th under head coach Cathy Reese.

It has been a peculiar few seasons for Reese’s squad, but the team has persevered through all obstacles to become a national semifinalist once again. Three years removed from its last appearance, which ended with the Terps hoisting the national championship trophy, Maryland returns to the Final Four at Homewood Field in Baltimore.

Even through a pandemic and three years of waiting, the Final Four landscape looks largely the same even with the return of the Terps. All four teams in this year’s edition were there in 2019, but the matchups have been shuffled.

Maryland defeated Boston College in the national championship game in 2019. This year, however, the Terps are slated to take on the Eagles in the semifinals, with Northwestern and North Carolina squaring off on the opposite side of the bracket.

The Terps and Eagles haven’t met since the 2019 national championship game — a game in which Maryland prevailed, 12-10. Reese and company will look for similar results this time around as they take I-95 about an hour north to Baltimore.

Opening draw is set for 3 p.m. at Homewood Field and can be watched on ESPNU.

Boston College (18-3, 6-2 ACC)

Head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein may have lost to Maryland the last time her team faced them, but since that meeting in 2019, Walker-Weinstein has guided Boston College to the top of the college lacrosse mountaintop. The Eagles won their first ever national title last season, defeating Syracuse, 16-10. Prior to that, Boston College had consistently been one of the top teams in the country, but could never get over the hump after finishing as runners-up three years in a row from 2017 to its loss in 2019 to Maryland. Now with championship pedigree to its name, the Eagles are on the verge of defending the crown.

Players to know

Graduate attacker Charlotte North (No. 8) — The reigning Tewaaraton Award winner is back among the top-5 finalists once again. Her third and final season has been a successful follow-up to her record-setting senior season. North’s 82 goals led Boston College for a second consecutive year, putting her among the sports most feared scorers in recent history. Not only does North send opposing defenses spinning, but she is also a force on the draw. She collected 132 draws for one of the nation’s best in that department.

Senior attacker Jenn Medjid (No. 35) — Medjid is the perfect complementary piece for North’s stout scoring as the senior put up 69 goals on a .795 shot on goal percentage. In the team’s two NCAA Tournament games this season, Medjid has poured in eight goals, tied for the most on the team in that span. A member of the team since its loss to Maryland in 2019, Medjid will be looking to spearhead an attack hungry for revenge versus the Terps.

Sophomore midfielder Belle Smith (No. 5) — The other eight-goal scorer for the Eagles in the NCAA Tournament is Smith, who produced a whopping seven goals in the quarterfinal matchup against Loyola (MD). The sophomore has scored in all but one game this season, following up her ACC Rookie of the Year season with 53 goals and bringing her career total to 100. As good as Smith is offensively, she provides crucial defense for the Eagles in re-defending as evidenced by her 24 caused turnovers.

Strength

Experience. This team navigated the challenges of the pandemic to perfection, leading to the program’s first national championship. A team with that much resiliency is essentially back in full aside from attacker Cara Urbank, who ranked second on the team in goals last season. Especially compared to Maryland’s roster, which has just one active player who has played in the Final Four, Boston College holds a significant advantage.

Weakness

Ground balls. It’s tough to find a weakness in teams this late in the season. Teams that make the Final Four are mostly solid in all facets of the game. But the one area to potentially be critical of is Boston College’s ground ball frequency. The team averages 13.57 a game, which ranked seventh out of nine ACC teams. Compared to Maryland’s 17.75 average, 50/50 balls on the turf could heavily skew in Maryland’s direction.

Three things to watch

1. How will the young Terps handle the bright lights? This is the first exposure to the Final Four for most of the roster. Luckily for the young Terps, the past few seasons have built to this point. On face value, the Final Four may seem daunting to the newcomers, but all they’ve done is prove time and time again that age is just a number. Particularly this year, the Terps have handled business against some of the nation’s top programs across the country.

2. Maryland’s all-time record versus Boston College. The Terps have won 14 of the 15 meetings against the Eagles, with their only loss coming in the 2018 national semifinal. Throughout the years in the ACC, Maryland dominated, allowing double-digit goals just twice times between 2007 and 2013. While BC holds bragging rights for now, Maryland will aim at reclaiming the throne in the battle of former ACC foes.

3. Can Shaylan Ahearn continue to dominate the draw. Maryland has produced 37 goals in two NCAA Tournament games largely due to the spectacular play in the draw circle from its junior midfielder Ahearn. She has secured 20 draws (nine vs. Duke, 11 vs. Florida). Ahearn has come ready to play since entering the postseason and her heightened abilities have only strengthened a proven offense down the stretch.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the game’s start time moving up from 5 p.m. to 3 p.m.