Archive for February 12, 2011
The Fearless 5ive
The path that the University of Maryland took to winning its first NCAA women’s lacrosse championship since 2001 was very much the same that typified its era of dominance in the late 1990s — a talented offense and attacking midfield with a defense that got better as the season went along.
By the time the Terrapins got to the Final Four last year, the lacrosse community knew all about Karri Ellen Johnson, Sarah Mollison, and Laura Merrifield. But who knew that defenders Abby Caso, Karissa Taylor, Iliana Sanza, and Brittany Poist would have such tremendous games in front of goalie Brittany Dipper?
It’s the defense which is going to determine whether Maryland is going to be able to make a charge at a second straight NCAA title in an increasingly competitive atmosphere, and that defense is going to be bolstered by redshirt senior Katie Gallagher, who missed last season.
The Terp attack should be its usual excellent self, even with the graduation of Teewaraton winner Caitlyn McFadden. That’s because Katie Schwartzmann and Kristy Black will be a year older and a year better, and freshman midfielders Brooke Griffin and Beth Glaros will be looking for playing time.
Of course, the main competition for Maryland is going to be Northwestern. The Wildcats have had nine months to think about a game that got away from them at the worst possible time: the championship final. Northwestern held a 6-0 lead and was about to have a shot at a 7-1 lead in the 13th minute when, with the Wildcats on an odd-man break, the team bench was yellow-carded. Maryland would outscore Northwestern 12-5 in the last 46 minutes of the match.
But lest you think this punch to the Cats’ solar plexus has made the team a lesser foe this season, think again. The team still has National Federation all-time leading goal-scorer Shannon Smith to lead the attack alongside Colleen Magarity, Alexandra Frank, and Erin Fitzgerald. The defense is going to be interesting because of the matchup problems that sophomore Taylor Thornton is going to create with her quick doubling and sure checking.
If there’s a team that can upset the Maryland-Northwestern duopoly, watch out for Syracuse. The Orange have been building for the last several years and are aching to get to that mythical “next level.” Sophomore Michelle Tumolo is an immense talent which is already being tipped as potentially one of the best players in the program’s history. And Liz Hogan is coming into her senior season as goalie with something to prove after the ignominous end to last year’s Final Four run.
Another team to look for is North Carolina, which was in the title game in 2009 and have all the talent in the world to make it to another championship final, if not win it outright. The Heels return Corey Donohoe and Laura Zimmermann on the attack end, and will have freshman Abbey Friend, who will have an impact on this program. Watch also for Lillie Lingo, the younger sister of U.S. field hockey captain Carrie Lingo, who moved over from the field hockey program to join up with Jenny Levy’s team at North Carolina.
But UNC, for all of its efforts the last couple of years, was almost upset in its first game of the season by the University of Florida. The Gators, that sleeping Southern giant of the sport, had a two-goal lead late against the Heels, but dropped an overtime decision. But Florida will have a chance to bounce back from that loss. The Gators play 11 out of their next 12 games at home, entertaining national powers like Northwestern, Ohio State, and Syracuse.
Florida, after an astronomically good recruiting class last year, was hard-pressed to repeat the recruiting push — to the point where no newcomers cracked the starting lineup for the team’s season-opener, but freshman Krista Grabher, from the nationally-ranked Vero Beach (Fla.) program, was brought on as as substitute. It will be fun to watch this group grow together.