May 15, 2009

Syracuse Not Intimidated by Maryland's Prowess

by Brian Delaney | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Two of the most unyielding, tireless offenses in women's lacrosse meet at noon Saturday in an NCAA Division I quarterfinal matchup that has the potential for a dizzying pace.

Second-seeded and unbeaten Maryland (20-0) hosts seventh-seeded Syracuse (14-4) with a spot in the final four at stake. Both teams scored 20 goals in first-round wins, both teams boast a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist-type player and both teams can go on backbreaking runs in the span of mere minutes.

What's a defense to do?

"They're going to be a challenge," SU sophomore goalie Liz Hogan said. "I hear they're very fast, they like to play around the crease a lot and they have many options and weapons."

Maryland freshman Kari Ellen Johnson has 68 goals, the highest single-season total in Terrapins history. Tewaaraton finalist Caitlyn McFadden has 81 points on 50 goals and 31 assists, and both Brandi Jones (28g, 32a) and Sarah Mollison (39g, 38a) have cracked the 60-point plateau.

Maryland is 8-0 all-time against Syracuse, its nine national championships are an NCAA-best in women's lacrosse and its 2009 resume includes 13 wins against nationally-ranked teams.

But with the Orange, the Terps find an opponent thats not standing in awe of their tradition. One year removed from their first final four appearance, five of Syracuse's last six wins have come against nationally-ranked teams.

"Last year we had only played like one top-10 team, and this year every week it felt like we were playing a top-10 team," Hogan said. "It's not as intimidating as it could be because we've played so many top-10 teams this year. I think it gives us huge confidence."

Syracuse had the tougher first round draw, and advanced with a convincing 20-10 win over unseeded but 11th-ranked Boston University on Sunday. Senior Katie Rowan, arguably snubbed for a Tewaaraton finalist spot, was brilliant with five goals and six assists to up her NCAA tournament point total to 38. Syracuse stormed out to a 14-6 lead and cruised. Thanks to just two turnovers, the Orange needed just two saves from Hogan.

"It wasn't her best performance," SU coach Gary Gait said afterward. "I have to give the other team credit. The shots they had were right on top of her."

Gait said Wednesday he's not going to reinvent the wheel defensively for Maryland, which boasts the nation's third-ranked offense at 16.2 goals per game. Incredibly, the Terrapins -- who beat Colgate, 20-4, in the first round -- do not start a senior.

"The balance is exceptional," Gait said. "And from what I've seen, they just all contribute and they all score. That makes them effective."

Not to mention a chore to defend. But that can be said of both teams.

"Just as Maryland has a great offense, we have a great offense," Hogan said. "We have seven people who can score, and some tall people on draw controls too. We're kind of similar teams. It'll be whichever teams defense shows up that makes the difference."

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