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Unbeaten regular season? Done.
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Chapel Hill, NC, USA
Fifth consecutive ACC tournament championship and 10th overall? Done.
A run at an 11th NCAA championship? Stay tuned.
The No. 1-ranked Terps (19-0) maintained their ACC supremacy Sunday night, dispatching homestanding North Carolina 12-8 in a steady rain at Fetzer Field. Brooke Griffin (South River), Taylor Cummings (McDonogh) and Beth Glaros (Wilde Lake) each had a hat trick, and Katie Schwarzmann (Century) picked up four assists and the MVP trophy.
The Tar Heels (14-3), ranked second and third in the national polls, had given the unbeaten Terps their closest call of the regular season, a 14-13 decision at College Park on April 6. But this one turned into a rout when Maryland outscored North Carolina 7-1 in the first 16 minutes of the second half to expand a 5-3 halftime advantage to 12-4.
"What a night for us," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. "I'm just really proud of these girls and how hard they worked. We knew coming into tonight's game it was going to be a battle. Obviously the weather conditions are not favorable. I'm proud of the way we stuck together. It's probably the best we've played defensively all season."
"We've been working all year on forcing players wide to take the low-percentage shots," Howard said. "Forcing them wide makes it a lot easier on me."
She said the close defense, led by senior Iliana Sanza (St. Paul's), did a good job of denying the Tar Heels shooting position in front of the crease.
"When they see our slides, and two or three players in there, they didn't have anywhere to go," Howard said.
The Terps lived up to their billing as the nation's highest-scoring team, breaking the game open with a strong show of offense that spanned the middle 25 minutes of the game.
Maryland got the final three goals of the first half. Glaros, a junior midfielder, had a free position shot, ACC scoring leader Alex Aust finished off a fast break after a UNC turnover, and defender Alice Mercer (Century) assisted on the next goal, clearing the ball and getting it to Glaros on the crease for a point-blank shot with 1:50 left in the half.
Maryland quickly stretched the lead to five goals in the second half. Moments after the Terps killed off a yellow card on Schwarzmann that came with two seconds left in the first half, Schwarzmann fed Griffin for her second goal of the game at 27:12.
Cummings then won the ensuing faceoff for Maryland and scored on a one-on-one dodge to make it 7-3. On North Carolina's next possession, Cummings forced a turnover on a clear attempt and got the ball to Kelly McPartland, who immediately fed Griffin for another transition goal.
North Carolina finally stopped the run when Emily Garrity's quick-stick shot cut the lead to 8-4, but the Terps reeled off the next four goals, by Aust, Glaros, Erin Collins and Cummings, to break it open. Schwarzmann's assist on Cummings' goal was her fourth of the day and gave the senior midfielder an ACC championship game record and the Terps a 12-4 lead with 14:06 to play.
Reese said Schwarzmann played well despite going without a goal.
"They doubled Katie pretty quickly," Reese said. "I think she had five goals the first game [against North Carolina]. But she had four assists, made smart decisions and allowed us to open up other players."
North Carolina would score the game's final four goals, including three in a row by Abbey Friend, who led the Tar Heels with four, but it wouldn't matter.
"I thought we did a couple of good things, but our inability to clear the ball, 7-for-15, we struggled with that," Tar Heels coach Jenny Levy said. "It was our Achilles' heel today."