VILLANOVA, Pa. — Kara Cannizzaro scored four straight goals in a 7:20 span in the second half to help third-seeded North Carolina beat two-time defending national champion Northwestern 11-4 on Friday in the NCAA women’s lacrosse semifinals.
Abbey Friend added three goals for the Tar Heels (17-3). North Carolina will play top-seeded Maryland, an 11-10 winner over No. 4 Syracuse in the second semifinal, in the final Sunday.
Brooke Griffin scored the go-ahead goal on an assist from Katie Schwarzmann with 2:51 left to lead top-seeded and undefeated Maryland (22-0), which has won 11 national titles, into its 21st championship game appearance. Kayla Treanor had four goals for the Orange (18-4).
“We’re just really excited,” North Carolina coach Jenny Levy said. “I really liked how we competed. I thought we were poised, we stuck together and we executed on things, especially on the defensive end, that were special.”
Kat DeRonda had a goal and assist for second-seeded Northwestern (19-3). The Wildcats, the winners of seven of the last eight NCAA titles, also lost to North Carolina on Feb. 22.
“We made a lot of errors and didn’t finish our shots,” Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “We had our chances, and on a big stage you have to be calm and cool and finish those chances. We didn’t finish our opportunities.”
Northwestern was 0 for 9 on free-position shots and matched a season low for goals.
“We wanted to make them uncomfortable, change things up and never let them get into a rhythm,” Levy said.
North Carolina held Northwestern to 16 shots.
“We switched up our defense and every one of our defenders played so well,” said North Carolina goalie Megan Ward, who made seven saves. “I feel really confident going into the championship game because our team played so well.”
In North Carolina’s only other appearance in the final, the Tar Heels lost to Northwestern 21-9 in 2009.
Friend scored two first-half goals to help North Carolina to a 4-1 halftime advantage. And the Tar Heels opened the second half with three straight goals, capped by Kelly Devlin’s goal on a free position that put them up 7-1 with just under 23 minutes left.
Alyssa Leonard and Kelly Rich scored to pull Northwestern to 7-3 with 18:55 remaining, but Cannizzaro scored four straight goals over the next 7:20 to put the Tar Heels ahead 11-3 with 11:35 left. Cannizzaro, who has a team-high 57 goals, credited her teammates’ performance — particularly in the first half when she was held scoreless.
“They totally shut me down (in the first half),” Cannizzaro said. “My team did amazing. When I get going, I think everyone feels a little momentum swing. But my team carried us in the first half and that’s what allowed us to explode in the second half. My team was able to produce when I was shut down in the first half. I have to give everything to my team.”
The Wildcats played short-handed in the final 15:45 after Leonard received a second yellow card. North Carolina will be playing a powerful Terps team.
Against Syracuse, Kelly McPartland had three goals, and Alex Aust, Beth Glaros and Taylor Cummings each had a pair of goals for Maryland, which claimed seven straight titles from 1995-2001 and won its last title in 2010.
“That game was exciting for everyone,” Maryland coach Cathy Reese said. “We’re really excited to have an opportunity to compete for a national championship. I’m just proud of our team and our effort.”
McPartland’s goal on a free position 4½ minutes into the second half put the Terps ahead 9-6, but Syracuse scored four straight over the next 7 minutes to go in front for the first time, 10-9. “We have to look at this like it is 0-0,” Schwarzmann said of the team’s mind-set at that point. “We have to hustle. We came up with some big plays, moved the ball upfield and just worked from it from there.”
McPartland tied with a goal from close range with just under 11 minutes remaining. After a long scoring drought, Griffin took a pass and tallied from just in front of the crease with 2:51 left to send the Terps to the final.
“It was a lot of quick ball movement to Brooke and she’s a great shooter,” Reese said. “She just took her time and scored. It was a huge lift for our team. They played with a lot of composure and confidence.”
The Terrapins led 5-4 when Syracuse’s Bridget Daley scores with 1:16 left before intermission. But Glaros scored from close range on a pass from Schwarzmann with 35 seconds left, and Aust followed with a tally on a free position with 11 ticks left in the half, also off a feed from Schwarzmann, to put Syracuse up three goals at the break. Treanor had three goals and an assist for the Orange in the opening half.
“Unfortunately, the outcome wasn’t what we wanted it, but we fought hard and never gave up,” Syracuse coach Gary Gait said.
Gait spoke out afterward about the need for a rules change, which wouldn’t allow teams to maintain possession like Maryland did for much of the final 10 minutes.
“The women’s game is incredible, fun to watch,” he said. “(But) it shouldn’t be 50-to-55 minutes of great lacrosse and keepaway for the rest. That’s just another example. I definitely think it’s time for our NCAA rules committee to step up, pull the trigger and do something about it.”
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