BALTIMORE -- Northwestern and Maryland have dominated women's lacrosse, combining for 17 NCAA championships.
On Sunday, Syracuse hopes to win its first.
Orange sixth-year head coach Gary Gait knows nothing but success. He was part of three national championship squads (1988-90) for the Syracuse men. As an assistant with Maryland's tradition-rich women's program, Gait was part of seven national championships (1995-01).Since taking over the Syracuse women, Gait's teams have played in six NCAA tournaments, including the 2012 title game and four semifinals. On Friday night, led by a talented senior class, the Orange beat Virginia 16-8 to advance to the 8:30 p.m. ET Sunday title contest.
One of eight senior starters for Gait, Alyssa Murray, teamed with all-world sophomore Kayla Treanor for 16 points Friday. Murray remembers the pain of an 8-6 loss to Northwestern in the 2012 NCAA final.
"My sophomore year, I was as ready for that game as I thought I could possibly be," Murray, who has 62 goals and 44 assists after Friday's six-goal outburst, said. "As you get older and older, this is the last shot. There's no other opportunity. I know how horrible that feeling was in my stomach when we lost two years ago and last year for those seniors … feeling so horribly that we couldn't get it done for them.
"We've been there before; we've felt that way -- wanting to get it done for the seniors. Knowing that the upperclassmen want to win so badly for us pushes us because we want to win for each other."
In 2014, only twice in 23 games has SU been defeated -- both times by Sunday's opponent. On March 10, Maryland won 12-10 in Syracuse. In the Atlantic Coast Conference final, head coach Cathy Reese's Terps won 13-7.
"Maybe the third time will be the charm," Gait said after Friday night's win.
The Terps, looking for their first NCAA title since 2010, respect the Orange. But the plan is not to focus on what the Orange can and will do on Sunday, but on what Maryland does.
What Maryland women's lacrosse has done is win championships. Ten times they have hoisted the trophy; seven times the Terps have lost in the title game.
"Syracuse is super-tough, we have a lot of respect for them, but we did just face them a couple weeks ago," Reese said. "Our focus isn't about them, it's on us. We just need to make sure we're doing what we've done all season, executing our game plan and sticking with what we did well."
Sunday's final features four of the nation's best players. Four of the five Tewaarton finalists will suit up -- Murray, Treanor, and the Terps' Taylor Cummings and Megan Douty.
Treanor scored four goals Friday to push her season total to 77, the highest output ever by a Syracuse attacker.
"Kayla [Treanor] is a great player," Cummings said. " Our team respects her a lot, but the focus is on us. I'm really just focused on this team, our opportunity on Sunday to win a championship. You can't worry about anything else. She's a great player, but that's not what's going to be on our minds."
Maryland (22-1) beat Northwestern 9-6 in the other semifinal Friday night at Towson.