Maryland's national women's lacrosse semifinal with Northwestern on Friday pits two of the top draw control experts. Terps sophomore Taylor Cummings will square off against the Division I career leader, Alyssa Leonard, who has 424 draw controls over her four years. Cummings has 210 for her career.
Whichever team wins the draw will control the pace of Friday night's game, which is critical to moving on to Sunday's national championship. The No. 1-seeded Terps, who average 14.82 goals per game, like to attack quickly, while Northwestern, averaging 11.05 goals, prefers a slower-tempo, settled approach.
Leonard has won 160 draws this season and helped the Wildcats win 62 percent of the 436 draws they've taken.
Facing her first meeting with Leonard, Cummings, who is an inch shorter at 5 feet 7, has controlled 116 of the 537 draws the Terps have been involved in this spring.
While Leonard is most adept at drawing to herself, Cummings (McDonogh) also gets a lot of help from her teammates on the circle with Beth Glaros (Wilde Lake) and Erin Collins combining to win 121 draws.
"Maryland in particular is incredibly talented not just with the draw but with the people on the circle, the people behind the line," Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. "They have an incredible team with great skill to be able to come up with those 50-50 balls."
Virginia goes from 4-6 to national semifinalist
Virginia hung on the verge of elimination from NCAA tournament consideration after losing to Duke on March 22. At that point, the Cavaliers were 4-6 and approaching a tough Atlantic Coast Conference stretch against Top 10 teams Notre Dame, Boston College and Maryland.
Without at least a .500 record, the Cavaliers wouldn't be eligible for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. After lopsided victories over Old Dominion and American, the Cavaliers defeated Notre Dame, 13-8, and topped Boston College, 16-14.
"Looking at the record and knowing that trying to get to the postseason is one of your obvious goals," Virginia coach Julie Myers said, "we knew that we're going to have to beat a string of Top 10 teams that are coming up on the schedule, so after that Duke game we did change our lineup."
Morgan Stephens, who is the team leader in caused turnovers (19) and whom Myers called her team's best defender, moved from the midfield to defense. At the same time, Daniela Eppler (Roland Park), who is tied with goalie Liz Colgan (Notre Dame Prep) for most ground balls (36), moved from defense to midfield.
"I think that gave us some speed and quickness on one end and it just really helped solidify our defense, which was struggling in that 4-6 stretch," Myers said.
The switch certainly helped as the Cavaliers rebounded from the Duke loss to win eight of their last 10 games, falling only to Maryland twice, and secured the No. 6 seeded spot in the NCAA tournament. In the ACC tournament, Virginia avenged its loss to Duke and, in the NCAA quarterfinals, knocked out defending champion North Carolina, 10-9.
In Friday's 5 p.m. national semifinal, the Cavaliers' first appearance since 2007 in the round, they will try to reverse their 18-14 regular-season loss to No. 2 Syracuse in the first postseason meeting between the two.
Syracuse more than double trouble
Syracuse's attack features one of the best one-two punches in Division I in Tewaaraton Award finalists Kayla Treanor and Alyssa Murray, but the Orange attack runs much deeper.
Treanor (73 goals, 34 assists) and Murray (56, 41) combine for nearly six goals a game, but in Saturday's 11-9 win over No. 7 Boston College, the Eagles shut the pair down in the first half. That helped Boston College get off to a 3-0 start; Katie Webster and Bridget Daley picked up where their Orange teammates left off, scoring two goals each in a 6-1 run to end the half.
Even though Treanor and Murray got going in the second half, Webster led the Orange with three goals.
"Certainly Kayla Treanor's one of the best attackers in the game," Myers said, "and Alyssa Murray is a great one-two punch. Containing those two, which is a tall task, is going to be really important, but you also have to worry about their midfield and Katie Webster coming in and trying to pick up some of that slack, so they've got threats everywhere and we just need to make sure we play some really solid, smart team defense. It's not going to be up to one kid to shut anybody down. It's going to have be seven of our field defenders, plus Liz is going to have to make some great saves in that mix as well."
Salisbury looking for a repeat
While the top Division I teams duke it out at Towson, Salisbury heads to Gettysburg for Saturday's Division III semifinals where the Sea Gulls hope their third straight trip to the final four is as charming as last year's.
The No. 2 Sea Gulls (21-1), who have lost only two games the past three years and are looking to repeat as champions, will meet No. 5 Amherst in the semifinal. No. 1 SUNY Cortland, the only team to beat the Sea Gulls this season, will play No. 3 Trinity (Conn.), the team Salisbury defeated in the title game last season.
Three first-team All-Americans — goalie Ashton Wheatley, attacker Bethany Baer (Westminster) and defender Laura Maskell (Marriotts Ridge) — lead the Sea Gulls, whose win over Franklin & Marshall in Saturday's regional final was their 41st straight home victory.
Baer is one of three Sea Gulls with 58 or more points. Shelby Nemecek (Liberty) leads the way with 65 goals and six assists, followed by Shannon Carta (South River) with 41 goals and 29 assists and Baer with 45 goals and 13 assists.
The Sea Gulls win by an average of 7.14 goals thanks to a defense that gives up just six goals a game. Wheatley, the two-time Division III Goalkeeper of the Year, has a lot to do with that, allowing just 5.94 goals per game with a .521 save rate.
Defenders Maskell, Wheatley, Meghan and Allison Toomey (St. Mary's) and Dominique DiPino (Dulaney) have combined for 65 of the team's 191 caused turnovers, while Nemecek, Baer and Carta excel at redefending, forcing a combined 62 turnovers.
The Sea Gulls are in the semifinals for the 10th time since 2000 and are looking for their national third championship.