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Lacrosse's Final Four features programs with varying semifinal experience

The semifinals for the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse tournament feature equal parts tradition and freshness.

Top-seeded Maryland and No. 7 seed Loyola Maryland are the grizzled veterans that have journeyed to this stage of the postseason in the last five seasons. No. 5 seed Brown and unseeded North Carolina are the newcomers making their first appearance in the Final Four in more than 20 years.

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ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra said no matter how often a program advances to championship weekend, every player will battle butterflies in the opening moments of each semifinal game.

"I think they will be a little nervous, but as a player, as crazy as this sounds, I wanted to get checked really hard at the beginning of the game and almost feel a little bit of pain to get the adrenaline rolling," the former Syracuse midfielder said. "The initial nerves will be prevalent, but once the game is going on, your instincts kind of take over. I think by the time it's late in the first quarter, all of those guys will get acclimated."

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Playing in the national semifinals has almost become a rite of late spring/early summer for the Terps (16-2), the Big Ten regular-season and tournament champions who are in their third consecutive Final Four and fifth in the last six seasons after defeating No. 8 seed Syracuse, 13-7, on Saturday at Brown Stadium in Providence.

Considering that volume of experience and the Terps' experience in front of big crowds — Maryland has played against Notre Dame before 6,970 people and beat the Orange in front of 11,012 — coach John Tillman said he thinks the players won't be as nervous about playing at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

"I think we have a veteran group that has played in a lot of big games," he said. "So I do feel like our guys should be comfortable in the moment. You never know until you're there, but I feel like with this group, especially having a lot of juniors and seniors, that's big for us. They've been there before, but also they've gone out to California to play in front of a big crowd and had to travel. I'm hopeful that we've had enough experience to maybe prep us up for something like this."

Loyola (14-3), the Patriot League tournament titlist, advanced to the program's fourth national semifinal and first since 2012 when that squad captured the national championship.

Redshirt senior defenseman David Manning — who, along with graduate students Jeff Chase (Boys' Latin) and Mike Kutzer, was on that 2012 team — sought council from the 2012 team's captains prior to Sunday's 10-8 win over Towson.

"I texted all the captains on that 2012 team, and they just gave me great advice," Manning said. "It's just another week of practice. There's a lot more on the line, but just play with energy and have fun. If there's all these emotions and everybody is kind of tight, we're not going to be playing Loyola lacrosse. So the biggest thing they told me to do was lead my way, the way you've been doing all year. You don't need to change. … Just keep doing the things that got you there. Play loose and dangerous. That's what we always say to the guys. Don't be tight. Just let the game come to you."

Brown (16-2), the Ivy League regular-season champion, outlasted Navy, 11-10, Saturday at Brown Stadium. The Bears will make their first appearance in the Final Four since 1994, which was the program's only trip to the semifinals. The rarity of the Bears at this advanced stage of the tournament was not lost on the players.

"It's something that hasn't been done here for a long time," senior goalkeeper Jack Kelly said. "The senior class has been instrumental, just as leaders and rallying the troops. We knew that we wanted to get back here. We've talked about this since freshman year. We've talked about getting to the quarterfinals since freshman year when we knew it was going to be at Brown. We've given the town a team to root for and really get behind."

North Carolina (10-6) is perhaps the most unlikely participant in the semifinals after going 0-8 in the quarterfinals since 1993. The Tar Heels, the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season champs who upset No. 6 seed Marquette in the first round and No. 3 seed Notre Dame on Sunday, were 3-3 after a 14-9 loss at Massachusetts on March 12.

"We hit rock bottom at 3-3, and these guys got together and let their hearts tell the story for a couple hours after we lost to UMass," said coach Joe Breschi, a Baltimore native and Loyola Blakefield graduate. "It's the honest truth. They just came together like I've never seen a team come together, and there's no pressure on them. Nobody expected them to be here, no one expected them to win a regular ACC regular-season title, and they did it."

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