April 11, 2009

Terp Women Win ACC Regular Season Title

by Andy Krauss | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Second-ranked Maryland donned pink jerseys to raise breast cancer awareness and money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation in Saturday’s 13-8 win over the fourth-ranked North Carolina. In doing so, they also raised awareness of the program’s resurgence and presence in the national picture of women’s lacrosse.

The Terps put on a dominating second half performance and broke open a game that was 5-5 at the half, rolling to the win. It was earned in a torrential downpour at College Park’s Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex and clinched the regular season ACC title for the Terps and the top seed in next weekend’s conference tournament in Blacksburg.

The Terps, who are rolling at 14-0 this season and off to their best start since a perfect 23-0 national championship season in 2001, went back and forth with the Tar Heels (11-3, 3-1 ACC) in the first half. UNC took a two-goal lead (5-3) when junior attacker Kristen Taylor scored with 9:56 left. From that point on, the Terps put the clamps down on the Carolina offense, allowing just three goals in the game’s final 39:56.

Momentum started swinging Maryland’s way towards the end of the second half. The Terps scored the final two goals of the stanza, including the first of four goals scored by freshman attacker Kerri Ellen Johnson with 3:04 left. Johnson’s output keeps her atop the Maryland scoring stats with and even 50 goals and 56 total points.

UNC’s junior goalkeeper Logan Ripley helped keep the Tar Heels in the game during the first half, making six saves, three of which came on free possession shots on goal.

Maryland head coach Cathy Reese was impressed with the changes her team made at halftime against a very game bunch of Tar Heels, who hadn’t lost in over a month.

“We know what we’re capable of,” said Reese. “Halftime gave us a chance to reset, refocus and tweak some things offensively to create more opportunities for each other. We played more disciplined on defense and limit their offensive opportunities. I was proud of our team for that effort. To hold Carolina to eight goals is a great accomplishment.”

Part of the reason Maryland held the Heels to just eight goals, was that UNC could muster just 18 shots and only six in the second half. In each of Carolina’s 11 wins, they had scored at least 11 goals.

The second half barrage was focused around a period of 14:27, in which the Terps outscored UNC, 5-0 and turned a 6-6 tie into an 11-6 lead. The run was highlighted by a tremendous individual effort by sophomore midfielder Laura Merrifield, who picked up a loose ball following a missed Tar Heel free position shot on goal, and ran the length of the field to score.

“We decided that we just wanted to come out and have fun in the second half,” said Merrifield. “We play best when we have fun. It was great to carry momentum into a victory a get a win in the ACC.”

With just two regular season games and the ACC Tournament to go, it would be easy for Reese to start thinking about cruising to the Final Four in Towson and taking aim at her first national title, a distinction that her mentor and former coach Cindy Timchal accomplished eight times as the top Terp. She had no hesitation in denying that is the case.

“I know that we have to take this one game at a time,” said Reese. “We’ll get to celebrate Easter with our families and start practice on Monday to prepare for our game with Hopkins on Tuesday.”

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