May 27, 2011

Speedy Turtles Reach NCAA Finals

by Mark Macyk | | NCAA Women's Final Four Blog

Katie Schwarzmann had four goals and two assists to lead Maryland past Duke 14-8. The Terps are headed to their second straight NCAA championship game.

© Kevin P. Tucker

STONY BROOK, N.Y. - The Maryland women’s lacrosse team is turning that old fable about the tortoise and the hare on its shell. The Terrapins may be steady, they trailed only once in tonight’s 14-8 NCAA semifinal victory over Duke and received goals from six different players, but there’s nothing slow about these turtles.

“We’re a fast team,” said Maryland coach Cathy Reese. “We like to transition the ball. Move from one end of the field to the other. We want to make it that at any of ours even players on the offensive end are a threat and can score.”

The Terps threatened from all over the field, as the defending NCAA champions outshot Duke 32-20 and won the ground ball (21-16) and turnover battles (18-12). Maryland (20-1) advances to the NCAA championship for an NCAA-best 20th, and second straight, season, where where it will meet Northwestern, Sunday at 4 p.m. at Stony Brook’s La Valle Stadium.

“I think you can see by the smiles on our faces we are really thrilled where we are right now,” Reese said. “We are excited about having the opportunity to compete for a national championship Sunday.”

Duke (15-5) struck first and led for two minutes after Kim Wenger connected with Molly Quirke to make it 1-0 with 26:06 remaining in the first half. Laura Merrifield put the Terps on the board with a free position at 24:00 and Sara Mollison put them up for good, 2-1, with 13:31 remaining. Maryland had controlled possession for most of the previous 10 minutes.
“I think you can only be on defense for so long,” said Duke coach Kerstin Kimel. “It’s Maryland and they’re gonna wear you down. Eventually they are going to score.”

Maryland turned on the offensive pressure late in the first half, scoring five of the frame’s final six goals, and continued the effort in the second, opening with four straight and building an 8-2 lead with 25:23 remaining. The Terps led by as many as eight twice.

Schwarzmann led all players with four goals and two assists, Mollison had four goals and one assist and Merrifield had three goals and one assist. Aust, Kristy Black and Beth Glaros also tallied goals for the Terrapins.

Said Merrifield: “Every single one of our players on the field and the bench can step up. Anyone can play and cause turnovers.”

Maryland’s offense started with its defense. Duke committed 12 first-half turnovers, to Maryland’s six. Mollie Mackler kept the Blue Devils in it with 10 saves. Emma Hamm led Duke with three goals. Kim Wenger added two goals and two assist, Christie Kaestner had one goal and two assists and Sarah Bullard had one goal and one assist.

“I thought overall we played well but they executed when they had opportunities,” Mackler said. “It’s not different from what we’ve seen. They played really well.”

No single player dominated for Maryland, but Duke seemed to have the most trouble with Mollison. The senior from Australia led all players with six shots on goal.

“You look at everything that everyone has done trying to stop her and it does’t work, to be honest,” Kimel said. “It is a total tribute to her... It’s a little bit like defending [former Northwest All-American and the 2010 IWLCA Attacker of the Year] Katrina Dowd as well. You go one way and she’s going to the other. She is quick. Cindy Timchal from Navy put it this way: it’s as if she’s a master of every inch of the crease. It think that’s a pretty fair statement.”

Mollison deflected the credit to her teammates.

“I think that’s a strength of mine, but at the same time my teammates work for me,” she said. “That’s how you beat a team like Duke by six goals.”

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