Maryland's women's lacrosse team is back in the NCAA championship game for the first time since 2001 -- the last time the Terrapins won the title.
Caitlyn McFadden scored four goals on her 22nd birthday and Karri Ellen Johnson had two goals and three assists as the top-seeded Terps ran up a six-goal lead in the first half and held on to beat Syracuse, 14-5, in Friday night's semifinal at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The Terps (21-1) advance to meet the winner of Friday's late semifinal between five-time defending champion Northwestern, the No. 2 seed, and North Carolina, the No. 3 seed. A year ago in the semifinals, the Terps fell to North Carolina, 8-7. The Tar Heels went on to lose to the Wildcats, 21-7.
It will be a record 15th appearance in the NCAA title game for the Terps who have won 10 national crowns -- nine since the NCAA took over the women's championships in 1982.
Friday night, Maryland won the early draws, but Syracuse slowed them down and it took a while for Maryland to get its crease game going. The unseeded Orange (15-7) was within 2-1 until Laura Merrifield scored her second goal on a free position with 11:45 to go in the first half. Johnson then beat a double team, going high to the far corner 30 seconds later.
Brittany Jones' interception fed Sarah Mollison for a 5-1 lead, and McFadden and Mollison added goals to run the Terps' lead to 7-1 with 5:21 left in the half. Syracuse's top scorer Christina Dove finally shook McFadden's defense and scored off a feed from Tee Ladouceur with 23 seconds to go for a 7-2 halftime score.
Terps goalie Brittany Dipper saved Syracuse's first shot of the second half and McFadden's second goal kept the Orange from turning the momentum initially. Then another Dipper save and interceptions by the sophomore keeper and defender Iliana Sanza held off the Orange.
When McFadden picked up a yellow card and sat for three minutes Dove, a Bel Air graduate, made it 8-3 with the 250th goal of her career, sparking a three-goal Orange run as the Terps went scoreless for nearly 22 minutes thanks in part to a terrific point-blank snuff by Hogan on McFadden rolling the crease.
Dove fed Michelle Tumolo and Tumolo scored again on feed from Ladouceur with 11:23 to go to pull the Orange within 8-5 with 11:23 to go.
The Terps then broke through with five goals in three minutes as Johnson scored and fed Schwarzmann and Kristy Black to go up 11-5. McFadden then punctuated the victory with two unassisted goals.
Alex Aust later added a free-position goal into an open net after Hogan picked up a red card for knocking Mollison to the ground. . No other team boasts an NCAA tournament resume like the Terps in their 26th appearance. They won seven straight titles between 1995 and 2001 with current coach Cathy Reese on the roster and Syracuse coach Gary Gait on the sideline as an assistant to Cindy Timchal. The Terps also have been to a record 18 final fours and won 42 tournament games.
The Orange was making its second appearance in the final four, having fallen to Northwestern in the 2008 semifinals. This spring, the Orange earned one of the most challenging first-round matchups, facing eighth-seeded Georgetown in the opening round after losing to the Hoyas twice in the previous two weeks. After beating Georgetown, 15-8, the Orange defeated seventh-seeded James Madison to earn the final four berth.