VILLANOVA, Pa. - Kelly McPartland played in her share of thrilling one-goal playoff games during her two state championship runs at Farmingdale High School. So what the current Maryland sophomore said last Friday night came with perspective.
"This was one of the most exciting games I've ever played in my life," McPartland said, moments after her Maryland team came from behind to defeat Syracuse, 11-10, in an NCAA women's lacrosse Division I semifinal at Villanova.
She wasn't exaggerating. Syracuse had rallied from a three-goal halftime deficit to take a 10-9 lead with 18:31 remaining, but McPartland scored to tie it with 16:51 to go. Neither team scored for the next 14 minutes until Brooke Griffin delivered the game-winner with 2:51 left.
The Terps will play in Sunday's title game, seeking a record 11th NCAA championship. Maryland will meet North Carolina, which stunned defending champion Northwestern, 11-4, earlier in the day.
McPartland led Maryland (22-0) with three goals and one assist and Tewaaraton Trophy finalists Katie Schwarzman (one goal, three assists) and Alex Aust (two goals, two assists) also had big days against Syracuse (18-4).
"Our top weapons are usually Katie and Alex," McPartland said. "That's who teams pick out and try and go against and match up with. But if we move the ball, we have so many offensive players that anyone can do it. I just happened to be the one in the open spots tonight."
Syracuse's Kayla Treanor led all players with four goals and two assists and West Babylon's Alyssa Murray, who was marked by Schwarzmann all night, scored once.
Syracuse has reached three semifinals in four seasons but has yet to win an NCAA championship. Said Syracuse coach Gary Gait: "We'll regroup for next year, knowing again what it feels like to fall short."
The thriller came on the heels of a shocker in the first game. It is the first time since 2005 that Northwestern, winners of the past two titles and seven of eight, will not play in the final game. Kara Cannizzarro had four goals and Megan Ward made seven saves to lead UNC (17-3), which never trailed. Bay Shore's Alyssa Leonard had three draw controls and was one of four players with one goal for Northwestern (19-3).