Maryland women’s lacrosse opened its 11th consecutive Final Four with a 25-13 rout of Northwestern, earning a spot in the 2019 NCAA championship game
Putting the scoring numbers in perspective is not easy, simply because they were so out of this world. The NCAA Tournament record for goals by a team is 26, and is held by Maryland in a first-round defeat of Temple in 2003. That mark is just 10 goals under the NCAA record by one team in any single game, which was set back in 1986 when Delaware defeated Towson 36-2.
Coming into Friday’s matchup, there was just about no chance to predict Maryland would come out with this much firepower and be this successful. Just a few weeks earlier, Northwestern dominated the Terrapins, 16-11, in the Big Ten championship game, leaving many with the assumption this rematch would be a tough battle.
In that Big Ten championship game, Northwestern utilized face-guarding of Jen Giles, which seemed to throw off the Terrapin game plan. Head coach Cathy Reese was mum on her plan to battle the Wildcats’ face-guarding this time around, simply telling reporters to “wait and see.”
The strategy that Maryland used was simply keeping defenders busy away from the ball. It was very clear with 10:30 remaining in the first half, as Hannah Warther dumped the ball off to Brindi Griffin, who then cut inside and scored. The entire Maryland offense overloaded the opposite side of the field and kept the tight man coverage busy, opening up the middle of the offensive zone for a one-on-one chance.
In the second half, the Terrapins were still finding success on the clearout play, as Catie May dumped it off to Warther from behind the cage and she scored her second goal of the night. Northwestern struggled to adjust and defend this play due to playing a man-to-man set, which makes it difficult for helping defenders to slide in and cover much open ground without also leaving their man open.
Maryland managed to score 16 unassisted goals, which does not include the six goals it scored off free-position chances. Just three Terrapins goals came on assists, with two coming in the first half off cutting opportunities that helped change up the look of the offense so it could not be easily deciphered.
The Terrapin defense also played a key role in simply giving the offense breathing room, as Megan Taylor came up huge in net and the defensive unit held Northwestern to just one goal on seven free-position chances.
The Wildcats struggled to find their footing after going down early, and Maryland was able to create chances off turnovers and hustle plays. Julia Braig even hung around the offensive end after a possession clock violation by Maryland and was able to intercept a pass and score her first career goal in transition.
Maryland’s offense will face a much tougher test Sunday, as Boston College’s defense allows just 10.13 goals per game, good for 21st in the country. The Eagles utilize a zone defense, but are very liberal in their sliding and switching to help, which may cause problems for Maryland if they attempt to clear the middle out consistently.
Opening draw for Maryland vs. Boston College is set for noon ET on Sunday at Homewood Field in Baltimore, and will be televised on ESPNU.