Two-time defending champion Princeton has a 28-game winning streak. Top-ranked every week this season, the Tigers (19-0) have confidence that comes with knowing how to pull out wins such as last season's 8-7 overtime national final over Virginia.
On the other hand, the No. 2 Cavaliers (18-3) have revenge on their minds.
"It's been hard trying not to overlook other teams, because that was such a tough, bitter kind of loss last year," said goalie Andrea Pfeiffer. "I definitely think we're ready for them. They're a great team, but mentally, we've been waiting for this since last year."
The Tigers have proved tough this season, winning three of their past five games by one goal. And there's nothing like experience: Virginia hasn't won a national championship in 11 years. Since then, Maryland has won seven and the Tigers three.
"A huge part of our strength is our mentality. The past experiences really help us with these final four games," said Tigers senior Theresa Sherry.
The Ivy League champs are shooting to become the eighth team in tournament history to finish the season unbeaten.
"Once you're there, it's a different kind of pressure," said Tigers coach Chris Sailer. "All season long, people have talked about us being undefeated, they've talked about the national championship, but we really don't think that way. We're just trying to play well ... and compete [today]."
The Tigers, known for their stingy defense, face the nation's top scoring offense in the Atlantic Coast Conference champion Cavaliers. In their semifinal win over Vanderbilt on Friday night, the Tigers solidified their reputation as a second-half team, up just 2-1 at the half before winning, 11-3.
Against an explosive Virginia attack that boasts the nation's second-leading scorer, Amy Appelt with 86 goals, the Tigers cannot afford a slow start.
"We need to get it done earlier and take chances earlier, just find that balance of playing confidently and taking control of the rhythm of the game without being passive," said Sherry, the Ivy League Player of the Year.
The Tigers beat the Cavaliers, 12-9, on March 14, but Virginia coach Julie Myers said her team will be ready this time.
"The difference is preparation time," Myers said. "The players don't realize it, but we've been throwing a lot of Princeton stuff at them. ... I feel like we're in a good position."