It was, as expected, a tightly fought game, and Northwestern came away with a 9-7 win over Maryland in the semifinals of the NCAA women's lacrosse championship. For Sunday's final (7 p.m. CT, ESPNU), NU will face Syracuse, which did the Wildcats a favor by upsetting NU-kryptonite Florida in double OT, in a fantastic game. The Wildcats, lest you need reminding, will be going for their seventh national title in eight years. Syracuse will be in the final for its first time.
Against Maryland, after trailing 6-4, NU scored four straight goals to take control of the game with 16:19 left. Maryland would score with 13:37 left to close to 8-7, but that would be it for the Terrapins. Taylor Thornton chipped in an insurance empty net goal for the Wildcats for the final margin. Thornton scored two goals, including the game winner, but many of Northwestern's goals came from unexpected sources.
Leading scorer Shannon Smith was content to be a playmaker, with a team-leading four assists. Senior midfield Jessica Russo scored twice, and senior defender Alex Frank scored just her second goal on the year early in the game. The other NU goals came from Lacey Vigmostad, Kara Mupo and Amanda Macaluso. Brianne LoManto came up with several fine clutch saves.
For Maryland, Tewaaraton Trophy finalist Katie Schwarzmann scored a hat trick, but the NU defense effectively shut down the Terrapins' high flying offense, thanks to some effective stalling techniques after winning draws. The Wildcats held Maryland to 15 shots, half of their season average.
In the other semifinal, No. 4 seed Syracuse amazingly battled back from a seven-goal deficit to beat No. 1 seed Florida, 14-13. Sarah Holden scored her fourth goal of the game in the second OT period for the Orange victory, after Florida had a goal in the first OT disallowed because, shades of Marty McSorely in the 1993 Stanley Cup finals, it was scored with an illegal stick.
NU and Syracuse met in the Wildcats' third game of the season, with NU winning 11-9 in OT.The Orange are 19-3 overall and went a perfect 8-0 in the Big East regular season before losing the conference tournament championship game to Loyola.
Syracuse is led offensively by Alyssa Murray, who has scored 70 goals, and Michelle Tumolo, who has scored 48. In goal, Alyssa Constantino has an 8.19 GAA.