May 19, 2014

Final Four Set After Wild Card Virginia Upsets UNC

by Megan Schneider | | Twitter | May Madness Home

Virginia, which had never won an NCAA tournament game in Chapel Hill, punched its ticket to the final four with a win Saturday over North Carolina. (Peyton Williams)

Despite all the chatter around Virginia earning the No. 6 seed with a pedestrian 10-8 record going into the NCAA tournament, the Cavaliers have never looked back. Virginia continued to prove its worth Saturday with an upset victory over the No. 3 seed and defending champion North Carolina.

"I couldn't be more proud of how hard the girls have worked, how we played, with us coming up with the win and taking us to the final four," Cavaliers coach Julie Myers said. "You couldn't script it any better for Virginia, so we're super excited."

Going into Saturday's matchup, the Tar Heels led the all-time series 20-12 and expected a repeat of the 2013 NCAA quarterfinals when they edged the Cavaliers by four goals, also as the No. 3 seed. North Carolina's 13-9 victory propelled Jenny Levy's squad to its first NCAA title after a hard-fought triple-overtime 13-12 win over Maryland.

Despite owning three NCAA titles in 1991, 1993 and 2004 – the most recent under Myers against Princeton – 13 semifinal and eight title game appearances, Virginia was the underdog against North Carolina. During the regular season, the Tar Heels topped Virginia 14-10, their ninth straight win in the series. In three of the previous four seasons, Virginia had North Carolina to thank for ending their NCAA tournament run. The Tar Heels owned a 6-1 advantage in the teams' NCAA tournament history, including a 4-0 mark at home.

"The road to the final four seems to always go through Carolina," Myers said. "They've been in [the semifinals] the last few years, which means they have been at the better half of it. But I just think this was a determined group of fourth-year players that led the charge and a talented third-year right behind them. They kept their focus right and blocked out any extra noise. They really started to bond together and believe and earned the right to play next weekend."

With a 6-0 run in the second half fueled by two goals from Liza Blue and one each from Mary Alati, Kelly Boyd, Casey Bockley and Maddy Keeshan, the Cavaliers overcame a 7-4 halftime deficit.

"I take pride in the fact that we beat the defending national champion and a great team and an opponent that we hadn't beaten," Myers said.

Virginia, which has won eight of its last 10 games, advanced to the NCAA semifinals for the 14th time in program history and the first since 2007. The Cavaliers will face the No. 2 seed Syracuse, which defeated No. 8 Boston College 11-9 to advance to the semifinals. Interestingly enough, the Orange earned a No. 1 ranking for the first time in program history with a 12-9 win over then-No. 1 North Carolina in April. During the ACC tournament, however, Syracuse just narrowly squeaked by the Tar Heels again for a 9-7 victory to advance to the title game.

After yesterday's graduation for the senior Cavaliers, today is the beginning of a new game plan for the Orange, which defeated Virginia 18-14 back in February. Considering it wasn't a blowout, and Syracuse's most recent contest against the Tar Heels, Virginia will step onto the field at Johnny Unitas Stadium ready to fight for a spot in the NCAA championship game.

"We will start thinking about Syracuse on Monday," Myers said. "It was not an easy season in the beginning, but they just grinded it out and pounded away."

Third Time's The Charm

Saturday, April 19, Regular Season: Florida 13, Northwestern 12

Sunday, May 4, ALC Championship Game: Florida 9, Northwestern 8

Saturday, May 17, NCAA Quarterfinals: Northwestern 12, Florida 11 (OT)

It may have taken the Wildcats three games to finally earn a win over Florida, but if there was any time to break through, it was Saturday.

In this thriller of a game, Northwestern avenged its regular season losses to the Gators, including in the ALC title game, which they missed by just one goal in the conference's final year in existence.

The NCAA quarterfinal recap on Northwestern's website says it all:

"Six ties. Seven lead changes. One overtime. And a 10th-straight berth in the NCAA women's lacrosse championship semifinals."

What a season the Wildcats have had. Many expected the Gators would get the glory during this round, especially with Tewaaraton finalist Shannon Gilroy at the helm. But with Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller's whopping 36-3 record in the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats left the Gators ashore.

Tewaaraton finalist Taylor Cummings and Maryland will take on future Big Ten foe Northwestern in the NCAA semifinals Friday. (John Strohsacker)

Seniors Alyssa Leonard and Kat DeRonda each scored a hat trick for Northwestern. The Wildcats limited Gilroy, Division I's top goal scorer, to three goals.

Saturday marked the first time Northwestern advanced to the final four with a win on the road. The Wildcats now prepare for the No. 1 seed Maryland, which easily advanced with a 15-8 decision over Duke, the last unseeded team that remained in the NCAA tournament.

The last time the Terps and Wildcats faced each other was during the 2012 NCAA semifinals, when Northwestern won 9-7. Maryland previously defeated the Wildcats 13-11 in the 2010 NCAA championship game. Both teams are headed to the new Big Ten women's lacrosse conference in 2015.

The Final Four To Score

at Towson

No. 2 Syracuse vs. No. 6 Virginia

Friday, May 23, 2014, 5 p.m.

No. 1 Maryland vs. No. 5 Northwestern

Friday, May 23, 2014, 7:30 p.m.

Championship Game

Sunday, May 25, 2014, 8:30 p.m.

Quarterfinal Results

No. 1 Maryland 15, Duke 8 | Box Score
No. 5 Northwestern 12, No. 4 Florida 11 | Box Score
No. 6 Virginia 10, No. 3 North Carolina 9 | Box Score
No. 2 Syracuse 11, No. 7 Boston College 9 | Box Score

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