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Maryland women's lacrosse dominant in 18-3 win vs. UMass, advances to Final Four

A light drizzle at Maryland's Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex turned into a steady rain at game time Sunday and the No. 1 Terps started showering Massachusetts with goals just as quickly.

Caroline Steele finished Caroline Wannen's pass from behind the goal one minute into the game and the highest scoring offense in Division I rolled up an 8-0 lead in 13 minutes en route to an 18-3 victory in the NCAA quarterfinals.

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A typical Terps offensive explosion, led by five goals from Zoe Stukenberg, has the team headed to the national semifinals for the eighth straight year. Aiming for a 14th national title, Maryland (21-0) will meet a familiar final-four foe, No. 4 Syracuse (19-5), at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, Pa.

The Terps have beaten the Orange five times in the past seven final fours including last year's semifinal and the 2014 title game.

Syracuse got back in this position with a 12-11 overtime winner over No. 5 Southern California in Saturday's quarterfinal.

For the Terps to reach the semifinals, they had to get past what could have been a trap game against the Atlantic 10 champions, who rank in the top five in Division I scoring offense and scoring defense.

In the only women's quarterfinal played on Sunday – North Carolina, Syracuse and Penn State earned their berths on Saturday – Maryland faced a surging Minutewomen team that had won 16 straight games and knocked off Ivy League champion Cornell in the previous round.

"We're the No. 1-ranked team. It's easy to fall into a trap," said Stukenberg, a Marriotts Ridge gradaute. "We respect UMass and all week, we spent preparing for a powerful UMass team and we didn't know exactly what to expect, but we were ready for anything."

What the Terps expected of themselves was to strike early and not let up.

After Steele's opening goal, the Minutewomen (20-2) had a chance to tie, but freshman goalie Megan Taylor (Glenelg), the Big Ten Goaltender of the Year, stopped a shot from their leading scorer, Erika Eipp.

Megan Whittle then scored twice in 16 seconds, the second goal on a lead pass from Taylor Cummings (McDonogh) off the draw control. Whittle then fed Taylor Hensh (Marriotts Ridge), and Bryn Boucher added a goal for a 5-0 lead through just more than seven minutes.

They were off and running, adding goals from Whittle, Steele and Stukenberg to an 8-0 lead with 12:01 to go.

The Minutewomen came into the game allowing just 6.57 goals per game, but Maryland surpassed that with seven in the first 11:45. Massachusetts had previously allowed only two opponents to hit double figures and hadn't given up more than 12 goals in a game. The Terps had 12 with 1:38 left in the first half.

Steele (Severn) and Whittle (McDonogh) each had four goals and an assist in a first half that ended 13-1 with a 22-7 Terps advantage in shots. The Terps had a 10-goal lead with 4:45 left and it wasn't the first time this season they had started the running clock in the first half.

"We wanted to make sure we were going full speed ahead," said Terps coach Cathy Reese, whose team scored on its first seven shots. "I think there's a tendency when you do score a couple goals, maybe to have a lapse,and that's something we wanted to eliminate. We wanted to make sure we had our foot on the gas."

The running clock cut down on the scoring opportunities in the second half and the Minutewomen face-guarded Whittle and Steele. Reese was content to let them pace the sidelines and play 5-on-5.

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UMass scored first in the second half, as Eipp fed Hannah Murphy, but the Terps answered that with a four-goal run, including two from Stukenberg, who hit every shot she took.

The Terps also dominated the draws, 15-7, with two-time Tewaaraton Award winner Cummings winning six.

Defensively, the Terps held UMass leading scorer Eipp to just two assists and held second-leading scorer Holly Turner without a point. Taylor finished with seven saves, including two during the opening 7-0 run.

For the Minutewomen, who hadn't been to the quarterfinals since 1984, this is the third time in five years they have fallen to Maryland in the NCAA tournament.

UMass coach Angela McMahon said one of the biggest differences between her team and the Terps is depth. Although she said her team has seen a "drastic improvement," it still has some distance to go.

"Maryland was out there and every single one of them was able to make a play, so when you try to shut down one, somebody else steps up," McMahon said, "and we had been doing a pretty good job of that all season long, but it's going to be an area that we're going to have to foster improvement and growth there to have more depth on our team."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kdunnsun 

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