May 22, 2009

Fans Denied Maryland-Northwestern for Championship

by Andy Krauss | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online | NCAA Semifinals Blog

TOWSON, Md. -- It would have been something pretty cool.

The Division I women's lacrosse national championship game could have been a matchup of two former Maryland All-Americans leading their unbeaten teams as unbeaten head coaches.

As great as it would have been for Maryland lacrosse fans to see Kelly Amonte Hiller and and Cathy Reese match wits, it was not to be. They won a combined six national titles in College Park and two of them (1995 and '96) came as teammates on Cindy Timchal's steamroller.

Hiller's team took care of business earlier in the night, beating Penn, 13-12, in double overtime.

However, Reese's Terps saw their perfect (21-0) season come to an end in Friday night's the national semifinals, losing to ACC rival North Carolina, 8-7.

The Terps had made it a tradition this season to lay in the weeds during the first halves of games, before shooting out in the second half en route to victory.

In the first meeting between Maryland and UNC in College Park, the Terps blew open a 5-5 tie at halftime to win 13-5.  Three days later, they trailed Johns Hopkins, 5-4 at halftime and then exploded for 14 second half goals to win, 18-12.

When the ACC title was on the line in Blacksburg, Va., the Terps trailed Duke, 5-4, at halftime.  Once again, they scored eight second half goals on the way to a 12-11 win.

Flash forward to Friday night.

Tied 4-4 at the half, it looked like they would pull out their old tricks, as freshman attacker Karri Ellen Johnson scored just a minute into the half.  The Heels then scored the ensuing three goals to go up 7-5.  Johnson and sophomore attacker Sarah Mollison scored to tie the game at 7-7 with 9:03 left.  UNC responded 41 ticks later to go up again, 8-7.

Terrapin magic then ran out of steam, not that Maryland didn't have their chances.  Mollison hit the post of UNC's goal with just 5:22 left in regulation and McFadden scored a goal six seconds later, but it was wiped out due to a crease violation.  Johnson had a point-blank shot with 3:17 left that was stonewalled by UNC goalkeeper Logan Ripley.

Ripley posted seven saves, four in the second half.

The clock struck midnight on Maryland, figuratively and almost literally on Friday night in front of 7,549 fans.  Because the first semifinal between Penn and Northwestern had gone to double overtime, the second contest didn't start until 9:15 p.m. It ended at 11:25.

The catalyst for many of Maryland's turnarounds this season has often been junior midfielder Caitlyn McFadden.  The Tewaarton Trophy finalist and ACC Player of the Year finished tied for the team lead in scoring with 86 points (54g, 32a).

"We came out playing really hard in the second half and got some good shots right away, but we couldn't get into our groove like we usually do," said McFadden.  "A lot of shots didn't fall that we normally stick in."

There is no doubt that Nelson is working on something special, and there is the solace that this Maryland team didn't start any seniors. It will be a factor for many years to come in what has become a new era in Maryland women's lacrosse.

"We were 21-1 and the No. 2 seed coming into this tournament," said Reese.  "It was a lot to be proud of. Without starting any seniors, I am obviously very excited for next year."

Maybe next year, she'll get that matchup with her old teammate.

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