VILLANOVA, Pa. — Maryland's high-octane offense couldn't quite hit every gear against Syracuse, but the No. 1 Terps had just enough in the tank to win Friday night's NCAA semifinal.
After going 14 minutes without a goal, Katie Schwarzmann fed Brooke Griffin for the game-winner with just under three minutes left as Maryland sneaked past fourth-seeded Syracuse, 11-10, and into the national title game for the 21st time.
Coach Cathy Reese's Terps (22-0) will be looking for their seventh undefeated season and 11th NCAA championship when they meet third-seeded North Carolina in an all-Atlantic Coast Conference title game Sunday at 8 p.m. at Villanova Stadium.
The Tar Heels, whom the Terps have beaten twice this season including in the ACC championship, dethroned two-time defending national champion Northwestern, 11-4, in the other semifinal.
Maryland defeated Syracuse 19-11 in February — the most points the Orange allowed all season. But on Friday the Terps had a more difficult time against the Orange defense, which this time played the backer zone with Becca Block double-teaming the ball.
But reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Schwarzmann found the opening that counted, hitting Griffin on the crease with 2:51 left.
"Syracuse is very fast, and Becca Block did an awesome job of being that backer out there," Schwarzmann, a senior midfielder, said. "We needed to move the ball quickly, and a couple times we got caught standing still and that played into the hands of their defense. Once we got that ball moving, we were able to find our open opportunities."
While the Orange (18-4), which had won 13 straight games, held the Terps' top scorers reasonably in check, Kelly McPartland took advantage and led Maryland with three goals — all in the second half.
"I know our top weapons are usually Katie and Alex [Aust], and that's who the teams pick out and try and match up with," McPartland said, "but if we move the ball, we have so many offensive players that anyone can do it. I just happened to be the one tonight to be in the open spots."
The Terps led 7-4 at halftime, but Syracuse — which fell to Northwestern in last year's title game and has never won a national title — came out with two quick goals as Kayla Treanor fed Amy Cross and then Alyssa Murray scored an unassisted goal to cut the Terps' lead to 7-6 with 27:51 left.
It was the only goal Murray would score. She led the Orange in scoring with 64 goals and 40 assists this season, but Schwarzmann marked her and held her to two shots the entire game.
"They're a very good defensive team one one one, very athletic," Syracuse coach Gary Gait said. "Alyssa just didn't get free. They marked her one-on-one and did a great job doing it. She tried to dodge a couple times early in the game and didn't have great success with it. They just make it tough for her."
But Murray's teammates picked up the slack through the middle of the second half as the Orange started winning more draws after the Terps won eight of 12 in the first half.
McPartland scored twice to boost Maryland's lead back to three, 9-6, with 24:18 to go, but the Orange rallied with four straight goals, two from Treanor and two from Katie Webster.
McPartland tied it again, at 10, with her third straight goal and her fourth point of the game on a nice move to the goal after taking a pass from Aust.
The teams went back and forth for the next 14 minutes before Schwrzmann connected with Griffin. Maryland won the next draw and managed to run out the clock.
Schwarzmann finished with a goal and three assists to boost her career points total to 301 points. She is the fourth player in Maryland history to score 300 career points. She stands third on the Terps' all-time list behind Jen Adams and Kelly Amonte.
Maryland 11, Syracuse 10
S 3 7 -- 10
M 7 4 -- 11
Goals: S—Treanor 4, Webster 2, Murray, A.Cross, K.Cross, Daley; M—McPartland 3, Cummings 2, Aust 2, Glaros 2, Schwarzmann, Griffin. Assists: S—Treanor 2; M—Schwarzmann 3, Aust 2, McPartland. Saves: S—Richardson 4, Costantino 5; M—Howard 3.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun