WOMEN (At Villanova, Pa.)
No. 1 seed Maryland (21-0) vs. No. 4 Syracuse (18-3)
Comment: The Terps are in the NCAA semifinals for the 21st time, more than any other Division I program. Boasting the top scoring margin in the final four (7.1 goals per game), the Terps are led by a balanced attack that can strike in just about any manner. If anyone knows how to take apart Maryland's offense, it's probably Orange coach Gary Gait, who facilitated their creative style as a Maryland assistant coach in the mid-'90s when Terps coach Cathy Reese was a player. The Terps defeated the Orange, 19-11, on Feb. 17, but both teams have evolved since the then. The Terps have two Tewaaraton Award fnalists in seniors Alex Aust (67 goals, 52 assists) and Katie Schwarzmann (54, 24), who won last year. The Orange has one — junior Alyssa Murray (67, 40) — while freshman Kayla Treanor (67, 22) has picked up some of the slack after senior Michelle Tumolo was sidelined late in the season with a knee injury. Syracuse has already avenged one loss this season with its 13-9 semifinal victory over Florida, one of last year's final four teams. The Orange has the second-longest winning streak, behind Maryland, at 13.
No. 2 Northwestern (20-2) vs. No. 3 North Carolina (16-3)
Friday, 5 p.m.
Comment: The Tar Heels defeated the two-time defending national champions, 11-8, in February, but they are well-aware of the Wildcats' ability to rebound. After losing to Florida, 22-4 — Northwestern's worst defeat since coach Kelly Amonte Hiller took over in 2002 — the Wildcats came back two weeks later and beat the Gators, 8-3. The Wildcats, who have won seven of the past eight national titles, might be the scariest team to face in the postseason because of their adaptability. The Tar Heels have had more success than most, dealing the Wildcats three of the 11 losses they've had since the start of their first NCAA championship season (2005). The Wildcats, however, lead the series 10-3. Northwestern has also avenged five of its last nine regular-season losses in the postseason, including one to coach Jenny Levy's Tar Heels in the 2010 national semifinals. Since a season-opening loss to Florida, North Carolina has fallen only to No. 1 Maryland. The Wildcats are tough to beat on the draw, with Alyssa Leonard winning 122 this fall, and they have a balanced offense led by Erin Fitzgerald (59 goals, six assists).The Tar Heels, who are looking for their first national title, are led by Tewaaraton finalist Kara Cannizzaro (53, 19) and Abbey Friend (44, 15).