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Upsets Galore: Thoughts from a crazy weekend in NCAA Women’s Lacrosse

Denver and Michigan are on the rise, while Maryland and Syracuse picked up huge wins

2014 NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship - Semifinals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Of the top 20 women’s lacrosse teams in last week’s media polls, eight of them lost over the weekend. With another week passing, we have a better understanding of where teams stand. Let’s breeze through a few of the most significant games this week.

Maryland 13, North Carolina 12 (2OT)

It’s the biggest rivalry in women’s lacrosse over the last five seasons, and this season’s iteration didn’t disappoint. Maryland senior Caroline Steele was an absolute baller, playing through a nagging knee injury to score the game-winning goal. In overtime, Steele scooped up a draw control (Maryland had been decimated, 21-6, in the circle prior to that) and spun her way to a walk-off win.

Prior to Steele’s winner, Kali Hartshorn did this, no look:

  • The attendance was 3,696. No, this wasn’t a double-header with the men. Four thousand people came to a regular season women’s lacrosse game. The sport is growing wildly every single year.
  • Maryland eked out a win and extended its home winning streak to 79 games. Yes. 79.
  • Regardless of the result, this game demonstrated that Maryland and North Carolina are two of the elite programs in the country, along with Boston College.
  • The Terps led 9-4 at halftime. The Tar Heels’ comeback came on the backs of Jamie Ortega and Gianna Bowe, who each scored hat tricks.
  • Megan Taylor made 14 saves for Maryland.
  • Maryland should have a pair of comfortable wins coming up, against UMBC and Hofstra. As for North Carolina, it’s a matchup back home against Northwestern. Should be a good one. Speaking of Northwestern...

Syracuse 15, Northwestern 14 (OT)

Is it 2012 again? Syracuse and Northwestern are again a couple of the elite programs in women’s lacrosse, and on Sunday the two teams played a wild one at the Carrier Dome.

The Orange led 12-9 midway through the second half, then the Wildcats strung off five goals in a row to take a 14-12 lead. Two Syracuse goals forced OT and then Emily Hawryschuk scored the game-winner.

  • Syracuse sophomore Grace Fahey did a tremendous job defensively on Northwestern star Selena Lasota. The Canadian attacker was held to just two goals and an assist.
  • Northwestern had an opportunity at the end of regulation to ice the victory, but after a shot clock violation, freshman Megan Carney scored with 25 seconds on the clock to force overtime.
  • Northwestern will head to Chapel Hill next weekend, while Syracuse has a date with Loyola, who had a huge win on Saturday. More on them later.

Denver 11, Stony Brook 7

Big-time upset in Colorado on Sunday, as the Pioneers proved they are legit. Denver jumped out to a 5-0 lead early in the first half and despite a couple of Stony Brook comeback attempts, the Pios never relinquished the lead.

Read my full story on the Denver zone defense here at US Lacrosse Magazine.

  • The Seawolves don’t seem to lack in talent or scheme, but there did seem to be a void in leadership on Sunday. Head coach Joe Spallina indicated to me after the game that when adversity hit, there wasn’t anyone to really “rally the troops.” One player who could be a big leader to the Stony Brook psyche going forward is Mackenzie Burns, the talented defenseman. She had a great game, especially in the second half for Stony Brook.
  • Denver’s defense was the real hero on Sunday, and goalie Carson Gregg is saving over 60 percent of shots against so far this season. That’s insane.
  • On the offensive end, the Pioneers are so balanced. The sophomore class of Bea Behrins, Quintin Hoch-Bullen and Eliza Radochonski is outstanding, while senior Julia Feiss is an ever-present threat to go off for about five goals.
  • Taryn Ohlmiller stood out in Stony Brook’s season-opener at Colorado on Friday, but on Sunday the younger of the sibling legends was a non-factor. She only scored one goal and one assist and seemed slow on the field at times.
  • Stony Brook will look to recuperate on the road against Towson this Friday, “two angry teams,” as Spallina told me. As for Denver, they’ll be playing on Tuesday at home against Michigan...

Michigan 8, Colorado 6

I poked fun at a bunch of my College Crosse colleagues a couple weeks ago for being irrationally warm to the Michigan men’s lacrosse team.

Now’s my turn to say, Michigan women’s lacrosse is really good!

The Wolverines slowed down the Buffaloes in Boulder on Sunday, and are now 5-0 on the season. Michigan opened up a 7-2 lead in the first half, and from there the defense shut the door.

  • Michigan goalie Mira Shane saved SEVENTEEN of 23 Colorado shots on goal in the game.
  • This Colorado team seems starved for offense right now. If it’s not coming from Samantha Nemirov or Miranda Stinson, who’s scoring for this team? They’ll have to figure it out quickly, because Pac-12 play is on the horizon.

Loyola 15, Florida 12

What a win for the Greyhounds, as they topped the Gators by three goals at home, avenging an OT loss to the swamp laxers a season ago.

After Florida took a 3-1 lead, Loyola stormed ahead 5-3 and was in control from then after. Livy Rosenzweig scored four goals for the Greyhounds, while Shannon Kavanaugh scored four for the Gators.

  • It’s tricky to figure out how good teams are early in the season, and Florida is a great example. In their opener, the Gators had an impressive win over the Colorado Buffaloes, but now Colorado might not be as good as we thought they were. Meanwhile, Florida has lost back-to-back games against Maryland and Loyola. Obviously there’s a ton of offensive talent here, but they’ll have to get the defense figured out to be a contender to make the Final Four.
  • Loyola opened its season with six straight games against teams currently ranked. That’ll continue against Stony Brook for a weekday tilt on Wednesday.

Other games from the weekend

  • Boston College 17, Harvard 6 — Nothing to see here.
  • Notre Dame 27, Kent State 0 — Why, though?
  • Duke 11, Virginia Tech 10 — Two teams that have so much potential, but aren’t quite there yet.
  • Navy 14, Towson 13 — Seven points for Kelly Larkin, the most underappreciated player in NCAA women’s lacrosse.
  • Virginia 14, Princeton 9 — This is a traditional rivalry game which can go either way, but it’s not a great look for the Ivy when the league’s preseason favorite falls to a mid-level ACC school.
  • James Madison 12, High Point 5 — High Point is a really solid team, so this is strong evidence that James Madison is back on track after a season-opening thrashing at the hands of UNC.
  • Penn 11, Johns Hopkins 10 — I didn’t predict the score to this game, but if I had predicted the score to this game before this game happened, I probably would have said Penn 11, Johns Hopkins 10.