There's been a lot of talk in Division I women's college lacrosse about parity, and it certainly has shown within some conferences and with a few new teams in the NCAA tournament this spring, but that parity still isn't making it to the top.
This year's final four bracket is — so far — a rerun of 2010 (when Maryland won its last national title). Not only are the same four teams in the national semifinals Friday night at Villanova, but they are matched up the same way: Maryland vs. Syracuse and Northwestern vs. North Carolina.
For five years, Maryland and Northwestern have been in every final four, North Carolina has been in four times and Syracuse has made three. During that time, only seven programs, including Penn, Duke and Florida, have played in the final four.
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This is the 32nd year of the NCAA women's lacrosse tournament, yet only 10 programs have won a national title. Just 14 have reached the final. Since 2001, when the tournament expanded to 16 teams with automatic qualifiers, only 23 programs have reached the final four.
Since 1991, only four programs have won championships — with Maryland taking 10, Northwestern winning seven, and Princeton and Virginia claiming three each.
While Maryland still has a record 10 NCAA tournament championships, including seven in a row between 1995 and 2001, Northwestern has dominated this decade. The Wildcats have played in eight straight title games and won seven.
No backing down
When top-seeded Maryland meets Syracuse in Friday's semifinal, the Terps are likely to face a backer zone defense that has helped the Orange win 13 straight games.
Syracuse coach Gary Gait wasn't playing that defense — a zone with one roaming player double-teaming the ball — when Maryland won the regular-season meeting, 19-11, but the Orange surely need to do something different to try to stop a Terps offense that came within a goal of its season-high output that day. Syracuse will have to try to clamp down because Katie Schwarzmann had seven goals, Taylor Cummings scored five and Alex Aust added four.
The Terps won't back down even if the Orange manages to put a lid on one of its leaders. Stony Brook slowed Maryland's offense twice this season with the backer zone, but the Terps still won, 8-3 and 11-3.
In the Terps' win over Stony Brook in the NCAA tournament second round, Stony Brook held Schwarzmann to one goal, but Brooke Griffin scored four and Aust had two goals and two assists. The Terps scored six goals in a row, including two in less than three minutes to open the second half, for a 6-1 lead, and they led by at least four goals the rest of the way.
With four players contributing 51 points or more — Aust (67 goals, 52 assists), Schwarzmann (54, 42), Griffin (46, 21) and Cummings (38, 13) — and four others, Kelly McPartland, Beth Glaros, Kristen Lamon and Halle Majorana in the 25- to 45-point range, the Terps offense is a handful for any kind of defense to stifle for long.
4 Tewaaraton finalists in the final four
You would expect the top players in the country to lead their teams to the final four, and four of the five women's finalists for the women's Tewaaraton Award have done that.
Top-seeded Maryland has two finalists. Senior midfielder Schwarzmann won last year and senior attacker Aust is a first-time finalist.
North Carolina senior midfielder Kara Cannizzaro and Syracuse attacker Alyssa Murray are also nominated for the award presented annually to the top player in the college game.
Florida goalie Mikey Meagher is the fifth finalist.
Alumni from many local high schools will be watching their former teammates this weekend as 31 players on the final four teams played high school lacrosse for Baltimore-area teams.
As you would expect, Maryland has the most players from the Baltimore area (19). The starting lineup inlcudes eight: Schwarzmann (Century), Griffin (South River), Cummings (McDonogh), Iliana Sanza (St. Paul's), Melissa Diepold (Perry Hall), Kasey Howard (Broadneck), Glaros (Wilde Lake) and Alice Mercer (Century) Also from the area: Lamon (St. Mary's), Jen Mendez (Seton Keough), Taylor Salandra (Glenelg), Casey Pepperman (McDonogh), Mary Angstadt (North Harford), Abbey Clipp (Marriotts Ridge), Caitlin Crouse (St. Mary's), Annie Farrell (Towson), Molly Fleming (Marriotts Ridge), Mattie Meredith (Roland Park) and Amalie Trentzsch (Winters Mill).
North Carolina has seven local players — Megan Ward (St. Mary's), Taylor George (Broadneck), Morgan Rubin (Bryn Mawr), Paige Hanson (Bryn Mawr), Sam McGee (Bryn Mawr), Zoe Skinner (Towson) and Cassie Ballard (Severna Park).
Syracuse has Erica Bodt (John Carroll), Natalie Glanell (South River) and Kirkland Locey (Notre Dame Prep). Northwestern has Nancy Dunbar (Bryn Mawr) and Brooks Lawler (McDonogh).
In addition, two of the head coaches played high school lacrosse here. Maryland's Cathy (Nelson) Reese played at Mount Hebron, and North Carolina's Jenny (Slingluff) Levy played at Roland Park.