— For most of Saturday's women's lacrosse showdown between No. 1 Maryland and No. 2 North Carolina, the Tar Heels managed to keep Maryland from generating their trademark run.
In a game that was tied eight times, the Tar Heels slowed the pace early with their deliberate offense, but when the Terps get rolling, they can put up goals in hurry. A four-goal spurt early in the second half provided the momentum behind Maryland's 14-13 victory in the clash of Atlantic Coast Conference rivals.
The Terps (14-0, 4-0 ACC) needed less than five minutes to turn a 9-8 deficit into a 12-9 edge, their biggest lead of the game played before an overflow crowd of 2,347, a record attendance for a lacrosse game at Maryland's Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex.
Taylor Cummings, who finished with four goals, ducked out of a double team for an uncontested goal and a 12-9 Terps lead with 20 minutes, 23 seconds to go. The freshman from McDonogh also scored the game winner on a free position with 7:18 to go.
After the four-goal spurt, the Terps held at least a two-goal edge until Abbey Friend scored her second straight goal with 3:29 to go to pull the Tar Heels within 14-13. Cummings, however, won the next draw and the Terps held possession the rest of the way.
"You've gotta win the draw down the stretch if you want to come back and Cummings did a good job," North Carolina coach Jenny Levy said after Maryland won four of the first five draws in the second half. "The draw's kind of a mixed bag anyway, because I didn't see anyone winning it cleanly except for Cummings maybe two times."
In the final 10 minutes, Maryland senior goalie Kasey Howard made three of her 11 saves, including two shortly after Tar Heels leading-scorer Kara Cannizzaro cut the lead to 13-11 with 11:25 to go.
Howard, a Broadneck graduate and first-year starter, kept Maryland in the game early with six first-half saves as the lead changed five times en route to an 8-8 halftime.
"I just love the focus that we've seen from her and the energy that she brings," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said of her goalie. "She had some outstanding saves today and that definitely was key, because we were having a tough time getting the draw for a while there so for Kasey to come up with saves like that through the game, that allowed us to possess the ball and have the opportunity to go to goal."
The Terps played an all-around strong game on defense, especially since the Tar Heels (11-2, 4-1) won 16 of 29 draws, including 11 in the first half. The unit of Iliana Sanza, Megan Douty, Melissa Diepold and Shana Brady also got a boost from freshman Alice Mercer and from Katie Schwarzmann, who marked Cannizzaro until she picked up a second yellow card and was sidelined with 8:30 to go.
"We did a great job communicating today," Howard said, "and just playing really solid one-on-one defense. That's what we've been working on lately, forcing players wide so they can take the low-angle shot instead of the shot form the middle. When the defense can force players wide, it's easier for me to make the save, so they did most of the hard work."
Schwarzmann, the 2012 Tewaaraton Award winner, led the Terps with five goals — four in the first half. In the decisive run, Beth Glaros scored twice and Brooke Griffin, who had three first-half assists, scored once before Cummings capped the spurt.
North Carolina, which had a 32-26 shots advantage, held Terps playmaker and leading scorer Alex Aust to one goal by faceguarding her with Courtney Waite. Aust, a senior, came into the game with 43 goals and 38 assists and ranks fourth on Maryland's career assist list.
"Aust is such a key part of their team and she's been just killing people from behind the crease, so we thought we'd employ a different strategy on that," Levy said. "I thought that was effective but we didn't do a great job on Schwarzmann. She's just a great player and we didn't handle her very well today, but credit her. She's just awesome."
NC 8 5 -- 13
MD 8 6 -- 14
Goals: NC—Cannizzaro 3, Friend 3, Garrity 2, Messinger 2, Coppa 2, Markison; M—Schwarzmann 5, Cummings 4, Glaros, Griffin, Aust, Lamon. Assists: NC—Tracy; M—Griffin 3. Saves: NC—Maksym 1, Ward 6; M—Howard 11.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun