Second-half surge lifts Maryland women over North Carolina, 12-9

Consecutive goals by Mollison, Jones, Aust carry No. 1 Terrapins to ACC regular-season title

April 09, 2011|By Rich Scherr, Special to The Baltimore Sun

For 55 minutes Saturday, top-ranked Maryland and No. 5 North Carolina staged a heavyweight battle on the lacrosse field, time and again trading blows and forcing each other into a defensive posture.

It was the other five minutes that made the biggest difference in host Maryland's 12-9 win.

After not having led by more than a goal, the Terrapins opened the second half with consecutive scores by Sarah Mollison, Brandi Jones and Alex Aust, building their largest lead of the day before going on to clinch the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season championship.

"We wanted to come out in the second half firing," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. "I thought we were a little timid and hesitant in the first half, and it seemed a little uncharacteristic for us. So we came out in the second half and really were attacking the cage more, which created opportunities for us."

The win was the 23rd straight for Maryland (13-0, 4-0 ACC) since a loss to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, N.C., last April. What's more, the Terrapins prevailed for the second straight game without leading scorer Karri Ellen Johnson (Broadneck), who suffered a concussion March 29 against Towson and is considered day-to-day.

In her stead, sophomore Katie Schwarzmann — The Baltimore Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year in 2009 as a senior at Century — and senior Laura Merrifield each scored four goals and junior goalie Brittany Dipper made seven saves, including several at point-blank range.

After the Terrapins traded goals with Carolina (10-3, 3-1) throughout the first half, the key sequence for Maryland occurred shortly after halftime.

After losing the opening draw, the Terrapins quickly forced a turnover at the defensive end, drew a foul deep in Tar Heels territory and scored on Mollison's free position to extend their lead to 7-5.

In short order, they increased their advantage when Mollison lobbed a pass over the net to Jones, who one-timed it into the net, then won the next draw. Maryland scored again 14 seconds later when Merrifield crossed to Alex Aust in front.

"We knew we had to come out and make a few adjustments [at halftime]," Schwarzmann said. "I think we really stepped it up. We got the draw, found the open girl and stuck our shots."

Said North Carolina coach Jenny Levy: "I thought that first five minutes [of the second half] was probably the difference in the game."

Up 11-7, Maryland got a break when an apparent goal by midfielder Kara Cannizzaro was reversed by the referees, who ruled the sophomore had used an illegal stick with too deep a pocket.

"I thought her stick looked illegal throughout the game," Reese said. "So if she scored again, we were going to check it out."

The Tar Heels never recovered, pulling within two before Schwarzmann finished them off with a goal to the lower right-hand corner with 1:50 left.

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