BALTIMORE — Maryland women’s lacrosse is back in the national championship game after missing the mark last season, as the No. 1-seed Terrapins cruised past No. 4-seed Northwestern, 25-13, Friday night at Homewood Field.
The Terrapins never trailed and gained separation late in the first half. Northwestern was within three in the second half, but an incredible 9-0 Maryland run put the game out of reach and then some. The 25 goals are a team-best under head coach Cathy Reese, who won her 300th career game.
Brindi Griffin led the way with six goals, while Grace Griffin added four of her own. Overall, the Terrapins had nine different goal scorers on the evening, including the first of defender Julia Braig’s career. The Wildcats got five goals from Izzy Scane, but Maryland held Big Ten Attacker of the Year Selena Lasota to just three goals.
The Terrapins flipped the script after losing to Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game by holding a 31-27 advantage in shots on goal, while seven caused turnovers and 14 saves from Megan Taylor made a lot of the difference.
After a double-overtime matchup in the first semifinal and shot-clock issues led to a start time after 9 p.m. ET, Maryland came out firing and took a quick 3-0 lead over the Wildcats. The differing energy level was substantial and seemed to knocked Northwestern off its game plan, as the Terrapins were able to capitalize on turnovers and miscues to jump out in front. The Wildcats were able to answer the hot start with a 4-1 run, but the Terrapins replicated the streak, bringing the score to 8-5 with 13:07 remaining in the half.
The Terrapins closed the half on a 3-2 run, and carried an 11-7 lead into the break. At the half, Grace Griffin led the way with three goals, while Brindi Griffin added two, but the Terrapins showed their depth on offense by having a whopping eight different scorers.
Northwestern came out strong in the second half, scoring four of the first six goals of the half, but Brindi Griffin was able to answer with two in a row to bring the Terrapin lead to 15-11. The Wildcats did their best to keep the game close, making it 16-13 with 19:06 remaining, but Maryland then answered with nine goals in a row to start a running clock and put the nail in the coffin.
Boston College, which defeated North Carolina 15-14 in the first semifinal, awaits the Terrapins in the national championship game.
Three things to know
1. The Terrapin offense utilized its depth. Grace Griffin notched a first-half hat trick, and Brindi Griffin finished with six goals to give Maryland some breathing room. Junior Hannah Warther also came on and make an impact with two goals, showing off a level of depth that is hard for teams to beat. With so many weapons, Maryland was able to wear the Wildcats down.
“I think it was everyone out there making plays for each other,” Brindi Griffin said. “I was lucky I was out there playing with all those girls and I’m just so proud of my team. ... Everybody working together, cutting through, we had so many goal-scorers. It was just such a fun environment to be a part of.”
2. Maryland came out with a new fire, and it worked. Northwestern was faced with an early 3-0 hole, and was never able to claim a lead. Turnovers and miscues by the Wildcats were taken in stride by the Terrapins, who then finished their chances on the offensive end. While Northwestern was within striking distance into the second half, Maryland’s fast start kept it in control.
Braig compared the delayed start to a weather delay against North Carolina in her sophomore campaign, but noted that dancing and fun “almost made [the team] more confident” entering play. “When you can stay positive and excited for who knows how long,” she said, “you just know you have something special with the people all around you.”
3. A new test awaits on Sunday. Maryland had faced, and beaten, just about every other top-10 team other than Boston College, but the Terrapins will have to go through the Eagles in order to win it all in 2019. The preseason No. 1 and No. 2 teams will square off for the national championship on Sunday at noon. Boston College eliminated Maryland in the semifinals last year, and the Terrapins won the 2017 championship game matchup. It will be Maryland’s ninth title game appearance under Reese. First draw Sunday is at noon ET on ESPNU.
“I think for us, our focus has always been on us, it’s always been on Maryland,” Reese said when looking ahead to Sunday’s matchup. “Our focus this weekend will continue to be on ourselves and we need to keep doing what we do with Megan Taylor back there making some phenomenal saves ... and with all pieces of our game playing at their best level, we just need to go out and try to put that best foot forward.”