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Archive for May 24, 2018

May 24, 2018 — Your NCAA Division I Final Four preview

This weekend, four good women’s lacrosse teams descend upon Stony Brook University for the 37th NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse national semifinals and final.

Each of them have been tested on the way to this point. Each has one Tewaaraton finalist. Each has an equal chance at victory.

Let’s look at the four sides:

MARYLAND TERRAPINS

Record: 20-1

Record against the rest of the Final Four: 1-1 (beat James Madison 15-12 and lost to North Carolina 16-15, OT)

Key players: Megan Whittle (sr., f), Julia Braig (jr., d), Kali Hartshorn (so., c),  Megan Taylor (jr., g)

Background stories: Maryland has more Division I titles than any other school (13 in the NCAA, 1 in the AIAW), and plenty more experience recently, having made the Final Four the last nine years. Despite being the No. 1 overall seed, the Terps have to come into this semifinal feeling very underappreciated, given the fact that the media and coaches voted Stony Brook as the top team in the country the last 10 weeks or so

The skinny: Whittle is the straw that stirs the drink. She willed the Terrapins in the last 13 minutes past the Naval Academy in their last game. She also has an uncanny touch when it comes to putting away 8-meter free-position shots. She has come down from about 85 percent earlier in the year from the stripe to about 60 percent at the moment. Still, that is a much higher percentage than the average NCAA player. Braig, however, is the player to watch. She is a human clearing machine who is fearless in breaking other teams’ midfield defenses in bringing the ball from the defensive to the final third

BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES

Record: 21-1

Record against Final Four: 1-1 (beat North Carolina 17-11, lost to North Carolina 14-11)

Key players: Sam Apuzzo (jr., f), Tess Chandler (sr., f), Lauren Daly (jr., g), Dempsey Arsenault (jr., m)

Background stories: The rematch of last year’s national final occurs in the semifinal round this year because of the machinations of the NCAA seeding committee. Boston College was the No. 2 team in the country in the polls heading into the ACC Tournament, but were seemingly penalized for losing to UNC in the conference final. For there to be a third BC-UNC game, the Eagles will have to get back up after their tremendous effort last week to overcome a late two-goal deficit to beat Stony Brook in extra time

The skinny: This year’s team roster still lists Kenzie Kent on it, though she has not played a single minute this year. Kent is the Boston College ice hockey player who moonlighted with the lacrosse team last spring and instantly changed their fortunes after a poor start to the season. It’s as if though the team is expecting a No. 4 to emerge from Lavalle Stadium’s locker room to join the side, but it will be up to Apuzzo, the team’s Tewaaraton nominee, to overcome all of Maryland’s firepower

NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS

Record: 17-3

Record against Final Four: 2-2 (lost to James Madison 15-14, 2 OT; defeated Maryland 16-15, OT; lost to Boston College 17-11, beat Boston College 14-11)

Key players: Marie McCool (sr., m), Ela Hazar (sr., f), Jamie Ortega (fr., f), Taylor Moreno (fr., g)

Background stories: Carolina is tested tough, and a good side, and are looking to make it back to the championship game since making the final three times in a four-year span from 2013 to 2016, winning the national title twice and possibly being one substitution violation away from winning a third

The skinny: McCool is the team’s Tewaaraton nominee, and a member of last summer’s teams that won gold at the FIH Women’s World Cup and at the World Games. McCool is a player who is at another level, though her statistics do not show it. She shares the ball, wins draws, makes good decisions on disposals, and can score when asked. For me, she’s the finest all-around midfielder that Jenny Levy and the UNC program have ever had

JAMES MADISON DUKES

Record: 20-1

Record against Final Four: 1-1 (lost to Maryland 15-12, beat UNC 15-14, 2 OT)

Key players: Kristen Gaudian (sr., m), Hanna Haven (jr., f), Rebecca Tooker (sr., d), Molly Dougherty (fr., g)

Background stories: This is the first national semifinal for James Madison since 2000, and their record is their best in program history. The Dukes play a methodical style of lacrosse on offense and play lights-out on the defensive end

The skinny: Fix these four names in your mind: Rebecca Tooker, Caroline Sdanowich, Emma Johnson, and Corinne Schmidt. These are James Madison’s starting close defenders, and they will have to protect Dougherty from the best shot attempts of the UNC attackers. They did a tremendous job against Florida last weekend, but McCool and the Heels are a different level

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