When the No. 1 Maryland women meet No. 2 North Carolina in College Park Saturday at noon, it will mark the 20th year of the rivalry, but the first without Maryland in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
For both coaches — Maryland's Cathy Reese, who played for the Terps, and North Carolina's Jenny Levy ,who played at Virginia — it's still tough to see the end of the ACC history with Maryland.
"It's a good challenge for us and it's something I don't want to give up," Reese said of the North Carolina rivalry. "Our athletes get really excited to compete on both teams. They're two of the best teams in the country. It's such a great rivalry and the teams have been pretty consistent in the ACC tournament and the final four. It's still so weird because normally we're playing Carolina in April and now I'm looking at my field covered with snow [on Tuesday] and the game's on Saturday."
Levy is thrilled to keep the Terps on her schedule. The Tar Heels are the only one of the other three original ACC teams to continue to play Maryland, which departed for the Big Ten after six straight ACC tournament championships. To accommodate their Big Ten schedule, the Terps don't play Virginia or Duke.
"Cathy Reese and I really enjoy playing each other," Levy said. "We think it's a great game for the program and we want to keep that. Luckily at Carolina, we didn't get involved with the politics of what the football and basketball groups are driving. Luckily for me, our [athletic director] allows me to schedule how we want. Maryland had to do what they had to do, but we really are excited to continue to play them."
Maryland, which won its season opener, 15-5, at William & Mary Sunday, earned the preseason No. 1 ranking in every poll thanks to a huge returning group. The Terps have 10 starters back, including Tewaaraton Award-winning junior midfielder Taylor Cummings (McDonogh).
North Carolina reached the NCAA quarterfinals last season before losing to Virginia, 10-9. By that point, the Tar Heels had been decimated by injury — losing five starters and two other players to season-ending injuries, including senior midfielders Brittney Coppa and Kelly Devlin.
The Tar Heels (3-0) bring back all of that talent plus the youngsters who had to fill in last season as well as several key newcomers. Now it's just a matter of putting it all together, which will take time, Levy said.
"Maryland returns almost everybody who's been on the field in the same role," Levy said, "so their situation is a little different than ours. ... Although we have a lot of different kids on the field, they haven't really played a lot together. … I think it's going to be a work in progress all year."
Blue Hens take a big step up
Several unranked teams have turned in eye-opening performances this season, including USC pushing No. 5 Northwestern to overtime and Marquette taking No. 17 Johns Hopkins to double overtime, but only one has pulled off the upset — Delaware.
The Blue Hens staged a convincing 17-5 win over then-No. 20 Georgetown Sunday for their first win over a ranked team in nearly two years. They scored the first four goals and led by seven at halftime in the snow at Delaware Stadium.
The win came as no surprise to fifth-year Delaware coach Kateri Linville, who played for the Blue Hens and who has been working to bring the program back to prominence. Delaware has won three national championships, but none since 1983.
Among the Blue Hens' priorities this season, Linville said, was to start games strong and finish strong. They scored the first four goals against the Hoyas and the last six. They outshot the Hoyas, 30-14.
"The stunning part, I guess, was jumping out and winning the first draw and getting the first goal — maybe to Georgetown but not to us. We expected that," Linville said. "Caitlin [McCartney] had been a good drawer for us and we've been working on our communication as a draw unit . We knew could convert some out of the transition game and keeping it up-tempo against them."
After qualifying for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament last season for the first time since 2009, the Blue Hens hope to build with a team that includes just three starting seniors: midfielder McCartney, defender Kierstan Smith and goalie Alex Zaugra.
The Blue Hens, who earned the No. 20 ranking in this week's Inside Lacrosse Media Poll, are 2-0 after a 22-2 win at Lafayette Tuesday. They now face what may be their biggest test of the season when they host No. 14 Penn Saturday at 1 p.m.
Maryland has won 11 straight games, the longest active run in Division I.…The wind chill temperature was 0 Saturday afternoon in Harrisonburg, Va., where James Madison defeated Connecticut, 15-11, in a game played in quarters rather than halves because of the cold. …Terps freshman Megan Whittle (McDonogh) scored two goals in her first collegiate start and was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week. … UMBC played eight rookies in its first two games, both OT losses.