Lacrosse: Early rematch for Northwestern and Maryland

Rohan Nadkarni

Last year, No. 2 Northwestern had Maryland feeling crabby.

The Wildcats defeated the No. 3 Terrapins for the 2011 national championship, payback for Maryland defeating NU in the 2010 national title game. This season the two squads meet again. However, this time it will be in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships.

“They are very confident, very comfortable in the situation, as are we,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “It’s a great rivalry. They’re an unbelievable team, and they’ve had a great run down the stretch. We’re going to have to come and bring our best game.”

Maryland’s run through the tournament has included impressive victories over Massachusetts and Loyola Maryland.

Redshirt freshman Brooke Griffin led the way for the Terrapins against the Minutewomen by recording six points. Along with Griffin, Kelly McPartland and Kristy Black all notched hat tricks against Massachusetts.

Tewaaraton Award finalist Katie Schwarzmann had five points of her own, recording two goals and three assists.

Against the sixth-seeded Greyhounds, Maryland dominated possession by owning the draw control battle 20-10. Schwarzmann put her stamp on the game with a signature performance, racking up eight points on four goals and four assists.

A healthy Karri Ellen Johnson, who missed 12 games for the Terrapins, appeared in top form, earning four points.

Johnson, Schwarzmann and a host of other Maryland players were key cogs in the teams’ last two meetings.

“They have, believe it or not, even more weapons on offense,” Amonte Hiller said. “They’re very well-balanced offensively. They’ve got, I think, six scorers above 30 points and some really serious feeders and dodgers, and they really have a dynamic offensive game.”

NU enters the game fresh off an impressive victory over Duke. After falling behind early to the Blue Devils, the Cats dominated the last 45 minutes of the game to cruise to an easy victory.

The key players in that contest were seniors Shannon Smith and Brianne LoManto, as well as junior Erin Fitzgerald.

LoManto, who finished the game with eight saves, made many stops that served as the turning point against Duke. Smith and Fitzgerald combined for seven of NU’s 12 goals on the day.

Smith will be an especially key player for the Cats. After scoring her nation-leading 86th goal of the season that turned out to be the difference in a one-goal game in the 2011 final, Smith’s role on the team has changed considerably this year.

After winning the Tewaaraton Award last year, Smith isn’t a finalist for this season. The senior attacker scored 64 goals this year but flashed her 2011-form against Duke.

However, Fitzgerald as well as junior defender Taylor Thornton stepped up to supplement Smith this year. Thornton is a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, and all three players are critical to NU’s success.

“It’s going to be a good game,” Smith said. “It will come down to draw controls and who can gain possession of the ball.”

Sophomore Alyssa Leonard took a majority of the draw controls against the Blue Devils, winning 8 out of NU’s 12 of 21.

Who wins the draw control battle will be the most important factor in the game, with each team sporting high-powered offenses that thrive on possession. Maryland dominated draw controls against Loyola Maryland, while the Cats have been working on draws since losing 18 of 23 against Florida on May 5.

“Draw controls are key for any team,” Amonte Hiller said. “Just as a goalie save can give your team a boost, so can a draw control. It’s definitely something that Maryland’s focusing on, as are we.”

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