Members of the Maryland women's lacrosse team celebrate… (Baltimore Sun photo by Karl…)
Caitlyn McFadden wanted just one thing for her 22nd birthday Friday, and she got it — a chance to play for the NCAA Division I women's lacrosse championship.
The senior All-American scored four goals, including two in a six-goal finishing run, to lead the top-seeded Terrapins to a 14-5 win over Syracuse in the NCAA semifinals at Towson's Johnny Unitas Stadium before an announced crowd of 8,762. It was the largest crowd ever for a women's lacrosse game in the United States.
For McFadden, a midfielder who has collected almost every individual accolade including Tewaaraton Award finalist and two-time Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, only the Terps' first national title since 2001 would make it a perfect birthday weekend.
The Terps (21-1) will meet five-time defending champion and No. 2 seed Northwestern, a 15-10 winner over No. 3 seed North Carolina in the other semifinal, at Unitas Stadium at 5:30 p.m. Sunday.
"I'm so excited to have the chance to compete for a national championship," the Notre Dame Prep graduate said. "That's our goal all year. All the accolades are an honor, but this is what I really want to be fighting for."
That echoes the feelings of all the Terrapins, who returned their entire starting lineup after last season's national semifinal loss to North Carolina and are aiming for the program's 11th title in 15 championship game appearances — both more than any other program.
Despite all of McFadden's honors, the Terps have a balanced offense, getting two goals each from Laura Merrifield, Sarah Mollison, Karri Ellen Johnson and ACC Rookie of the Year Katie Schwarzmann. Johnson also had three assists.
"We knew they were a very good team, they were super-athletic," Orange coach Gary Gait said, "and we were going to have to play a great game. We were going to have to step up and make plays, make shots and, unfortunately, it didn't happen for us today."
Maryland, which won eight of 10 first-half draws, ran up an 8-2 lead on McFadden's goal to open the second half, but the unseeded Orange, in their second appearance in the final four, rallied.
The Orange did better on draws in the second half, but Gait said they didn't get the quality shots they were looking for. The Terps' defense held the Orange to five goals on 19 shots.
Syracuse rallied midway through the second half, cutting into the 8-2 Terps lead with three straight goals, the last two from Michelle Tumolo. The Orange held Maryland scoreless for nearly 22 minutes, but the Terps seized the momentum when Johnson fed Schwarzmann to pull ahead 9-5 with 6:26 to go. That set off a run of five goals in exactly three minutes, punctuated by two from McFadden for a 13-5 lead.
"We did have a little drought there for a while where we were making some unnecessary turnovers, but this team found a way to fight back," Terps coach Cathy Reese said, "and were able to continue to push our transition, our fast break and to take care of the ball at the end of the game when [the Terps] were tired."