Nike/LM Division I Women's Top 20: UNC Dethrones Terps
Nike/Lacrosse Magazine Rankings
The Tar Heel women were the first to spark the Carolina sweep of the NCAA championships Memorial Day weekend.
No. 3 seed North Carolina led 6-4 at halftime with Maryland trailing for just the second time all season. The Terps had a brief glimmer of hope when senior Taylor Cummings found the back of the net to cut their deficit to one, but the Tar Heels went on a five-goal run to secure its second national title in program history.
With the win, dethroning the two-time defending champion, North Carolina claims the No. 1 spot in the final Nike/Lacrosse Magazine Division I Women's Top 20, as Maryland drops to No. 2.
Fellow final four teams Syracuse and Penn State moved up in the poll, but the Nittany Lions saw the biggest jump as the only unseeded team to advance to Memorial Day weekend with upsets over No. 2 seed Florida and No. 7 seed Penn. UMass also had two upsets of their own – over the Ivy League's Princeton and Cornell to secure a spot in the Top 10.
Like the Division I men's season, 2016 had a fitting ending for Division I women's lacrosse with a season full of suprising upsets .
Also considered (alphabetical order): Loyola.
Penn State (+11): Penn State peaked at the right time, especially goalie Emi Smith who led her team back to the final four for the first time in more than 15 years. She had seven saves in the win over Winthrop to open the NCAA tournament and came up with several huge stops in the overtime win over Florida. Then against Penn, Smith recorded eight saves while giving up just four goals. While they ultimately fell to North Carolina in the semifinals, it was only by one goal. They proved they were one of the top teams this year depsite losing their top two scorers from 2015.
UMass (+10): Both UMass and the 2016 NCAA champion North Carolina finished with a 20-2 record. During the regular season, the Minutewomen's only loss by one goal to then-No. 14 Boston College. They clinched their eight straight Atlantic 10 title, but without similar competition to teams in conferences like the ACC, many didn't knew what to expect from them. UMass drew then-No. 16 Princeton for the first round of the NCAA tournament – and won 13-12 in overtime. Then they faced No. 8 seed and Ivy League tournament champion Cornell in the second round – and again won by one. The Minutewomen may have fallen 18-3 at the hands of the Terps, but they proved they could play with some of the best teams in Division I.
Princeton (-5): After sharing the regular season title with Penn in 2014, Princeton inched forward in 2015, claiming both the outright regular season crown and its second overall tournament title, and expected to repeat as the conference champion in 2016. However, the Tigers struggled in postseason play, falling to Cornell in the Ivy League tourament and again to UMass in the NCAA tournament. Three games before the conference tournament, they also lost to rival Penn by five.
Florida (-4): Florida had an impressive season, winning both the 2016 Big East regular season and tournament titles en route to the best start in program history at 18-1. Its only loss prior to the NCAA tournament was by 10 goals to No. 1 Maryland. While the Gators earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAAs with the head-to-head 16-15 win over North Carolina, they dropped the ball against unseeded Penn State in the second round after a first-round bye. Florida only recorded three saves to nine for the Nittany Lions.
Johns Hopkins: The Blue Jays, the first team this season to have No. 1 Maryland trailing at halftime, earned an at-large bid to compete in the NCAA tournament. Having not played a game in nearly three weeks because it was their final year as an independent, they came out of the gate with a strong 12-10 showing against then-No. 15 Virginia, never trailing the entire game. Johns Hopkins may have lost to Maryland again, but with an even 12-12 battle on the draw, it showed it was a strong team this season without a conference to fall back on.
Loyola: The Greyhounds hopped in and out of the rankings all season with a 1-4 start before cruising to its third straight Patriot League title. However, they fell to an up-and-down Duke squad in the first round.
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