In February, Duke coach Kerstin Kimel said she wasn't sure any women's lacrosse team was better than Maryland. After Saturday's NCAA quarterfinal, she seemed pretty well convinced.
The No. 1 Terps (21-0) had their lethal offense rolling and also forced 15 turnovers en route to a 14-9 victory and a berth in their fifth straight NCAA final four. Looking for their 12th national title and their first since 2010, the Terps are in the final four for a record 21st time.
Taking their second win this season over their Atlantic Coast Conference rival at Maryland's Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex, the Terps continue to make it difficult for defenses to contain an attack that always has seven players ready to score. Alex Aust led the Terps with five goals and two assists, while Brooke Griffin (South River) added three goals and an assist. Katie Schwarzmann (Century) had two goals.
"They're just a fantastic team," Kimel said. "I was really proud of our kids how hard we fought, but what do you do with Maryland? We did an awesome job on Schwarzmann today and then we gave up five goals to Alex Aust. They've got a lot of weapons. I think they're poised to do some really great things moving forward into final four weekend."
The Terps will meet fourth-seeded Syracuse, a 13-9 winner over fifth-seeded Florida, on Friday night in Villanova, Pa. The title game is May 26.
On Saturday, even a terrific job by left-handed freshman goalie Kelsey Duryea, who finished with 15 saves, could not help the Blue Devils (14-6) hold off the Terps, who outshot them 34-18.
In a 15-minute stretch beginning with the last five minutes of the first half, the Terps extended a 5-3 lead to 14-5. Aust had four goals and an assist in a 6-1 run spanning halftime.
The senior attacker, a Tewaaraton Award finalist along with Schwarzmann, last year's winner, opened the second half with a free-position goal, fed Schwarzmann and then scored off a pass from Beth Glaros (Wilde Lake) to run the Terps lead to 11-4.
"Going into the second half, we thought we could have done a better job shooting percentagewise," Aust said. "Their goalie's really good — so respect to her — but we weren't really moving her and putting it around her, so making that a focal point of the second half, I think made us hone in and be more disciplined and finish our shots."
After Maddy Morrissey scored one of her three goals for Duke, Schwarzmann, Griffin and Glaros answered in succession to boost the Terps' lead to 14-5 with 15:02 to go.
Maryland's attackers and midfielders also did a terrific job at redefending and forcing a lot of turnovers in Duke's attacking end. The Blue Devils had four failed clears in 13 attempts — well above their average.
Once they got the ball back, the Terps took advantage of the unsettled Duke defense.
"That's how Maryland plays," Kimel said. "Maryland plays a great scrambled game, and if you allow too much of that, then I think you can dig yourself into a hole really quickly, and we did that unfortunately."
For most of the game, Duryea had more saves than the Blue Devils had shots. Maryland goalie Kasey Howard (Broadneck) turned away seven of those shots, including two at the beginning of the second half to make sure Duke didn't build any momentum coming out of the break.
The Terps maintained their businesslike attitude after the game and didn't celebrate much with their team goal still two games away.
"I didn't want us to overlook today," Terps coach Cathy Reese said. "Here we are coming in, playing a team we're familiar with, but we were here too in 2008 [in the NCAA quarterfinals] and we lost to Duke. These [players] weren't a part of that, but I was, and we needed to make sure we were focused on us and what we were all about. We did that, and now's our time to move forward."
The Terps, who lost in the NCAA semifinals last season to eventual champion Northwestern, will take a day off Sunday — graduation day for their seven seniors. Then they will begin to prepare for coach Gary Gait (a former Terps assistant) and Syracuse, a team they beat, 19-11, at the Carrier Dome in the second game of the season. The Orange advanced to its first national final last season, falling to Northwestern, 8-6.
Duke 4 5 — 9
Maryland 8 6 — 14
Goals: D—Morrissey 3, Quirke 3, Trimble, Smesko, Ogle; M—Aust 5, Griffin 3, Schwarzmann 2, Glaros, Cummings, Majorana, Lamon. Assists: D—Maurer 4, Quirke; M—Aust 2, Griffin, Glaros. Saves: D—Duryea 15; M—Howard 7.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun