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May 25, 2017 — Inside the NCAA Division I Final Four

Tomorrow, four Division I women’s lacrosse teams will enter the pitch at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. Only one will leave Sunday morning with the championship. Here’s our inside look at the four competing sides:

Record: 21-0
Against the Final Four (2-0): Beat Boston College 21-13, beat Penn State 16-14
Key Players: Megan Whittle (jr., a), Zoe Stukenberg (sr., m), Nadine Hadnagy (sr., d), Kali Hartshorn (fr., c), Jen Giles (so., a/m), Megan Taylor (so., g), Caroline Wannen (sr., a), Caroline Steele (so., a)
Intangibles: At times, the Terps have won with ease. At other times, such as in last week’s win over Stony Brook, they’ve made it hard on themselves. But last weekend’s adversity showed who would step up in the clutch. And those players were Giles, Steele, and Wannen on the attack end and Hartshorn on the draws.
The skinny: Maryland, on paper, is one of the two best teams in the country. Yet, as the Third Law of Lacrosse says, “games aren’t played on paper.” After all, the other “best team on paper,” North Carolina, fell by the wayside last weekend. They should get it done this weekend, but they’ll have last year’s loss to UNC in the backs of their minds.

Record: 18-4
Against the Final Four (0-1): Lost to Boston College 20-11
Key Players: Jenna Collins, (jr., m), Julia Collins, (jr., c), Kelly Larkin (fr., a), Marie Valenti (so., d/m), Ingrid Boyum (jr., g), Blake Smith (jr., d), Morgan Young (sr., a)
Intangibles: As a head coach, nobody has been to more NCAA women’s Final Fours than Cindy Timchal. She has known more about the little pressures that are put on a program, how to get her teams workout time and rest.
The skinny: Can the Navy defense pull together after losing top defender Meghan Hubley to a lower-body injury?

Record: 16-6
Against the Final Four (1-1): Beat Navy 20-11; lost to Maryland 21-13
Key Players: Sam Apuzzo (so., a), Kate Weeks (sr., a), Kaileen Hart (jr., a), Dempsey Arsenault (so., d/m), Zoe Ochoa (sr., g)
Intangibles: The biggest intangible on this team wears No. 4; that’s Kenzie Kent, a player who has only been in 10 games this season because she is also on the women’s ice hockey team. But she has more than fit in after her season on ice, contributing pace and skill.
The skinny: Did any of you have Boston College as the last ACC team standing this year? Neither did I. Yet, B.C. has always recruited well and has been on the edge of turning the corner. The Eagles also had the most unexpected result of the tournament when they beat Syracuse 21-10 in the octofinal round. This is a glorified home game for Boston College, and that cannot be discounted.

Record: 17-3
Against the Final Four (0-1): Lost to Maryland 16-14
Key Players: Katie O’Donnell (jr., a), Steph Lazo, (sr., a), Madison Carter (so., a/m), Cat Rainone (sr., g)
Intangibles: Carter, just a sophomore, has scored 69 goals on the season, and has been stupendous on draws this year, winning 123. She should be getting more Tewaaraton and national team attention soon.
The skinny: Much has been made of the closed hegemony of women’s lacrosse; since Harvard won the title in 1990, exactly five schools have won the NCAA Division I championship. Penn State was the school winning the title immediately before that, and the Nittany Lions have had so many close calls despite having some enormous talent.

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