As usual, Long Island will be well represented in this weekend’s NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse final four.
Boston College, Maryland, North Carolina and Northwestern — four of the premier programs in the country — each feature athletes with Long Island roots. Of the 136 players on championship-weekend rosters, 21 come from Long Island. That's 15.4 percent of the rosters.
Regardless of which team is crowned on Sunday afternoon at Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Field, some Long Island athletes and their families will be basking in the glory of an NCAA championship.
No. 1 Maryland vs. No. 4 Northwestern
These teams meet for the third time this season. Maryland won the regular-season matchup, but Northwestern defeated the Terrapins in the Big Ten championship game just a few weeks ago.
“We learned a lot from that game, and we learned a lot about ourselves and had the chance to really re-evaluate some things,” Maryland coach Cathy Reese said on Monday.
Northwestern — a team that entered the spring with major question marks on defense — stepped up against Tewaaraton Award finalist Jen Giles, holding her to two goals combined this season. Maryland needs Giles to get going, both as a scorer and as someone who opens space for her teammates.
Maryland defenders have to focus on limiting Selena Lasota, another Tewaaraton finalist who has scored at least three goals in 15 of 19 games. In what could turn into an offensive slugfest, the play of Giles and Lasota will be an indication of which team has the upper hand.
No. 2 Boston College vs. No. 3 North Carolina
This game has a real Long Island flavor. Fifteen players are Long Islanders, and several make significant impacts on both ends of the field.
Boston College was the de facto No. 1 team in the country for most of the spring, but a loss to North Carolina in the ACC championship game bumped the Eagles to the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament. B.C.’s Sam Apuzzo (West Babylon) is the reigning Tewaaraton winner and a key playmaker alongside offensive threats in Kenzie Kent, Dempsey Arsenault and Cara Urbank (Sacred Heart).
They’ll be tasked with matching UNC’s dynamic pairing of Jamie Ortega (Centereach) and Katie Hoeg (Mattituck), one of the best duos in the nation.
“She's very humble and very selfless,” UNC coach Jenny Levy said of Ortega. “She may get out of the game and have like seven points and she has no clue. She's like, ‘Oh, really? Oh, great. Did we win?’ I'm like, ‘Yeah.’ I don't think she gets a lot of credit, and I thought she probably could have gotten a little bit more credit nationally with the Tewaaraton stuff, but that seems to be the trend with that award. So we'll leave it at that.”
Both defenses have something to prove, as Boston College’s Abbey Ngai (Cold Spring Harbor) and UNC’s Taylor Moreno (Huntington) look to shut down potent offenses in the cage.
But the pacing of this game should lend itself to a fast, transition-oriented contest. It could be like two boxers going shot for shot.
Long Islanders in the Final Four
BOSTON COLLEGE: Sam Apuzzo, West Babylon; Maggie Casey, Garden City; Lauren Daly, Shoreham-Wading River; Jenn Medjid, Garden City; Abbey Ngai, Cold Spring Harbor; Cailee Perettine, Farmingdale; Cara Urbank, Sacred Heart; Cassidy Weeks, Bayport-Blue Point; Courtney Weeks, Bayport-Blue Point.
MARYLAND: Madison Rielly, Manhasset; Maddie Sanchez, Rocky Point; Nikki Sliwak, Wantagh.
NORTH CAROLINA: Katie Hoeg, Mattituck; Maddie Hoffer, Sachem North; Kate Kotowski, Cold Spring Harbor; Caroline McCarthy, Port Washington; Taylor Moreno, Huntington; Jamie Ortega, Centereach.
NORTHWESTERN: Megan Gordon, Wantagh; Ally Palermo, Seaford; Claire Quinn, St. Anthony’s.