Top four seeds share one goal at lacrosse national championships
Long Island is a hub of lacrosse, making it the perfect setting for the culmination of the 2018 season. The top four seeds in the NCAA tournament, Maryland, North Carolina, James Madison and Boston College, are into the final four.
The national championship will be noon on Sunday on ESPNU.
Here's what to expect at Friday's national semifinals at LaValle Stadium in Stony Brook, New York.
No. 3. James Madison vs. No. 2 North Carolina, 5 p.m. ET
You guys again? James Madison (20-1) and North Carolina (17-3) played each other in their season openers on Feb. 10. It was a classic -- a 15-14 JMU double-overtime victory that featured 10 ties, five lead changes and a Dukes rally from a two-goal deficit in the final 4:41. All-everything attacker Kristen Gaudian scored the winner 67 seconds into the second extra period. For many, the result heralded JMU's arrival as a national power. But UNC coach Jenny Levy wasn't among those who needed to be convinced. "I think people made a big deal about us losing to them at the beginning of the season," said Levy, whose Tar Heels managed a mere two-goal victory over the Dukes in 2017. "I didn't think it was a big deal in the sense that I just thought they were really good and people hadn't seen them play yet."
JM who? Maryland and North Carolina are regulars here, and Boston College reached the title game a year ago. JMU hasn't been to the final four in 18 years, but this isn't a program to overlook. The Dukes knocked off top-20 rivals Towson (twice), Virginia (twice), Penn State and Florida en route to a rematch with the Tar Heels. The nine seniors, six of whom start for the Colonial Athletic Association champions, are the most successful class in JMU school history, and the 20 wins are a program record. JMU's 15-12 setback at Maryland, where the Terrapins have won 47 straight, is the lone blemish on its season.
"JMU is not one of those teams that just automatically gets put back in the top 10 or top 20 year after year," JMU coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe said. "No one is going to assume we're going to get there. We have to be willing to do the work, and that's what this team has done."
Tar Heel success: North Carolina is in the final four for the seventh time in 10 years, a span that includes national titles in 2013 and 2016. The victory two years ago came against a heavily favored Maryland team that featured three-time Tewaaraton Award winner Taylor Cummings. In 2013, North Carolina also defeated Maryland in a triple-overtime thriller, the longest title game in NCAA history.
The road here: Though JMU has thrived behind one of the nation's most prolific offenses, the Dukes flexed their defensive muscle by holding high-powered Florida to a season-low output in an 11-8 quarterfinal victory.
Meanwhile, North Carolina defeated Northwestern 19-14 in its quarterfinal behind redshirt freshman goalie Taylor Moreno, who tied a career high with 17 saves. It was the fourth straight game of double-digit saves for Moreno, who split time with sophomore Elise Hennessey most of the season but has played all 60 minutes in each of the Tar Heels' past four games.
Tewaaraton watch: Each team features one of five Tewaaraton finalists -- Gaudian for JMU and dynamic UNC midfielder Marie McCool, who made the last cut for college lacrosse's premier honor for the second straight year.
No slouch: The Tar Heels, who started the season 5-3, boast the top RPI in the nation. They're the lone team to have faced all three of the semifinalists, beating Maryland 16-15 in overtime on Feb. 24 and upsetting Boston College 14-11 in the ACC tournament final.
No. 4 Boston College vs. No. 1 Maryland, 7:30 p.m. ET
Let's do it again: This is the first meeting between Boston College (21-1) and Maryland (20-1) since the 2017 NCAA title game, when Maryland prevailed 16-13 to cap an undefeated season and claim its 14th national crown.
No MOP, no problem: It's a testament to Boston College's depth that the Eagles have returned to the national semifinals despite the absence of star attacker and dual-sport sensation Kenzie Kent, the most outstanding player of the 2017 tournament who elected to redshirt in 2018. "I think a lot of people were ready and willing to be the playmaker for this year, which is great, exciting," Eagles coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein said. "It's fun to watch my kids step up." Kent, who also led BC to three Frozen Fours in four years in ice hockey, plans to focus exclusively on lacrosse next season.
Surviving a nail-biter: The eagerly anticipated quarterfinal pitting No. 4 Boston College against No. 5 and unbeaten Stony Brook lived up to its hype as the Eagles rallied from three goals down over the final 15:59 to force overtime, then won it 12-11 on Dempsey Arsenault's goal in the second extra period. "It was pretty wild," Walker-Weinstein said. "That's exactly what we expected. I mean, Stony Brook's awesome, my team is too, and it was a big stage and high stakes. But my kids are really level, and it was awesome."
How they draw it up: A big key to the Eagles' win over Stony Brook was BC's 20-6 edge in draw controls, a stat that was not lost on Maryland coach Cathy Reese. "It's an area they've excelled at all year," Reese said of the Eagles. "They're quick, they're athletic, they're aggressive, and so they've done a really nice job on that all season." Fortunately for Reese, her Terrapins seem well-equipped to hold their own on the draw. Led by sophomore attacker Kali Hartshorn, Maryland ranks second nationally in draw controls per game.
Best of the best: The game features two of the nation's elite players -- Boston College junior attacker Sam Apuzzo and Maryland senior attacker Megan Whittle. Both are among the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award honoring the nation's top college lacrosse player. The winner will be announced May 31.
Nobody's done it better: The Terrapins have won 14 national titles, including three times in the past four years.