Familiar Championship Foes to Face Off for ACC Women's Lacrosse Title on ACC Monday

April 22, 2012

By Rob Daniels
Special to the ACC.com

Durham, N.C. (theACC.com) - The losing coaches in Saturday's semifinals didn't hazard a guess about who's going to win Monday's ACC Women's Lacrosse Championship game between North Carolina and Maryland. Diplomacy might explain much of the reticence, but even the most brutally direct, politically incorrect observer might have a hard time picking between the Tar Heels and Terrapins, who play for the crown at Duke's Koskinen Stadium (7 p.m., ESPNU, ESPN3).

In one corner sit the three-time defending champion Terps, who committed the unspeakable atrocity of dropping two ACC games in 2012 and who flew into Research Triangle airspace on a stealth plane as the third seed out of six. Remember them?

Anybody who has seen them lately has to be impressed. It's theoretically possible to get through 60 minutes of competitive lacrosse with only one turnover to your name, but about the only way to do it is to win the draw and toss the ball around the box against an indifferent defense for minutes on end. If your ambitions transcend generating test subjects for a sleep study, you're going to lose possession every so often. Especially against a tested team like Duke, which drew the Terps on Saturday.

And Maryland wasn't perfect. It had a turnover against the Blue Devils. One.

"When you're playing a team like Maryland, there can be tremendous momentum swings," Duke coach Kirsten Kimel said. "You have to put the stops on those."

The Terrapins' confidence in working the ball around the perimeter has both created and benefited the emergence of a star in Alex Aust, who set an ACC record with five assists in the first round and tied the former standard with four more against Duke.

"Alex has continued to get better as the season has progressed," Terps coach Cathy Reese said. "She has gotten stronger and more confident in every practice and in every game. That's why she's setting these records: because she's patient."

And then there are the Tar Heels, who have done nothing in 2012 except run the table in ACC play so far. Virginia liked its chances at halftime Saturday, having induced a 2-2 draw after 30 minutes, but UNC, like Maryland, can hit you with three goals before you can articulate the words, "Time out."

The Tar Heels, having lost to the Terrapins in each of the past two title games, won't lack for motivation. Attacker Becky Lynch is working her way into an elite spot in ACC history, challenging championship scoring records that have been in place for a decade.

And then there is the matter of timing. The championship game falls on a Monday, when the Tar Heels normally convene for film work accompanied by rhetorically liberal analysis. They say Mondays are their most productive days of most weeks, and that's coming from a team that spends the rest of the week winning.

On their most recent Monday, they dissected a loss to Northwestern. And the Cavaliers ultimately paid for that, 14-6.

"Finally, we shook whatever had been over us," coach Julie Levy said.

The next question is if either championship contender can shake the other.