Sunday night’s NCAA women’s lacrosse championship was a game of firsts. Unfortunately for No. 1 Maryland, they weren’t happy firsts.
In the longest game in women’s tournament history, North Carolina upset the No. 1 Terps, 13-12, on Sammy Jo Tracy’s transition goal in triple overtime to win its first national championship before 9,391 fans at Villanova Stadium. It was the first loss of the season for the Terps (22-1) and the first time they had lost an NCAA tournament overtime game in seven tries.
Terps goalie Kasey Howard kept the game going through overtime with four saves, including a terrific stop in the first overtime against her former Broadneck teammate Taylor George.
But in the third overtime, Tar Heels freshman goalie Megan Ward made a point-blank stop on Brooke Griffin’s shot and the Tar Heels took off the other way.
I knew I had to make it, because it was sudden death and there was a lot of pressure,” said Ward, a St. Mary’s graduate. “But I knew that if I made the save, our attack would go down and score right after it.”
Brittney Coppa fed Tracy, another freshman, for the game winner in the fifth overtime game in the 32-year history of the women’s tournament. Maryland had won two of its record 11 national titles in overtime.
In 12 minutes and 31 seconds of overtime Sunday, the Terps had the better of possession but struggled to create good scoring opportunities.
“We just weren’t moving the ball quick enough,” Maryland senior Katie Schwarzmann said. “They were doing a great job in their backer defense and we needed to move the ball and find the open side and we weren’t doing that.”
Maryland, which had been looking for its fifth undefeated season, beat third-seeded North Carolina (18-3) twice this season, including in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship, but that didn’t matter to either team Sunday night.
oach Jenny Levy’s Tar Heels, in the title game for only the second time, scored the first three goals and the Terps trailed by their biggest margin in more than a year. Maryland also trailed at the half for the first time this year. None of that mattered either, because, just as they had in the previous two meetings, the Terps came out firing in the second half.
They rallied with the first four goals of the second half to take a 10-9 lead, their first of the game, on Schwarzmann’s free-position goal.
Griffin then fed Schwarzmann for an 11-9 lead, but the Tar Heels scored the next three goals to take the lead back on tournament Most Outstanding Player Kara Cannizzaro’s free-position goal with nine minutes left.
Alex Aust tied the game on a terrific move to fake Ward low and slip the shot past her into the far high corner for a 12-12 tie with 3:51 to go.
In the second half, freshman Taylor Cummings got things rolling, scoring the first goal and assisting Beth Glaros and Griffin to tie at 9 with 24:39 to go.
Heading into the final five minutes of the half, the Tar Heels were driving for another goal, but Schwarzmann raced behind the Terps cage to force a turnover by snaring a ground ball. That caused turnover set up Aust’s tying goal.
In the first half, the Terps didn’t have the ball much early as the Tar Heels won the first two draws and took advantage of one of Maryland’s nine turnovers to open the game 3-0. North Carolina took a three-goal lead into the half, 9-6.
Only once this season had the Terps even been in a tie at the half, 8-8 during the regular-season game with North Carolina.
The careers of eight Maryland seniors came to an end Sunday night, including those of Schwarzmann (the third Terp ever to score 300 points) and Aust (tied for second on the Terps career assists list). Both are Tewaaraton Award nominees as is North Carolina senior Cannizzaro (who set her school’s single-season points record). Schwarzmann, Aust and Cummings were named to the All-Tournament team as was Ward.
“It’s just awesome that we had 60 more minutes to wear a Maryland jersey,” Schwarzmann said.
Maryland coach Cathy Reese corrected that. “We had a lot more than that,” she said with a laugh.
Schwarzmann, who played in four final fours and won the national title as a freshman continued, “But it’s just awesome to come in as a freshman and we played in the national championship game and to go out as a senior doing the same thing. Many people, they don’t get the chance to do that.”
NC 9 3 0 0 1 -- 13
MD 6 6 0 0 0 -- 12
Goals: NC—Cannizzaro 4, Coppa 3, Messinger 3, George, Devlin, Tracy; M—Cummings 3, Schwarzmann 3, Griffin 2, Glaros 2, Collins, Aust.
Assists: NC—Cannizzaro 2, Coppa; M—Griffin 3, Cummings. Saves: NC—Ward 6
M—Howard 5Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun