Although the top four seeds have advanced to Championship Weekend for the second straight year, story lines abound as the teams descend on Homewood Field on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore for games beginning Friday evening at five p.m. and culminating with Sunday afternoon’s championship game at noon.
The top seeded Maryland Terrapins make a remarkable 11th consecutive appearance and are seeking their fifth title under head coach Cathy Reese and 14th overall. After a stretch during which they won the NCAA Championship seven times in eight years, the Northwestern Wildcats, who will face off against Maryland in the second semifinal, are returning to the Final Four for the first time since winning their last title in 2014.
On the other side of the bracket, the North Carolina Tar Heels have reached the ultimate weekend for the seventh time in the past 10 years and will be looking to add a third national championship in the decade. They will first have to get past the Boston College Eagles who are hoping the third time’s a charm in their quest for the program’s first NCAA title. In fact, until James Madison surprised BC in the title game last year, you’d have to go back to 2004 to find a year when the title wasn’t claimed by Maryland, North Carolina or Northwestern.
#3 North Carolina Tar Heels vs #2 Boston College Eagles
After losing in the championship game in each of the past two seasons, the Boston College Eagles attacked the 2019 season like a team on a mission. Led by their senior trio of Sam Apuzzo, Dempsey Arsenault, and Kenzie Kent they won their first 19 games generally steamrolling everyone in sight until North Carolina surprised them in the ACC Tournament championship game. Apuzzo, Arsenault, and Kent, who account for 51 percent of BC’s goals and 69 percent of their assists have yet to win either an ACC or NCAA Tournament championship and will be highly motivated to add the lone missing piece to their college careers.
After losing 14-8 to the Eagles in Chapel Hill in the regular season, the Tar Heels bounced back with a 15-13 upset win in the ACC Tournament. Like the Eagles, UNC features a pair of 100 point scorers led by sophomore Jamie Ortega who has scored more than twice as many goals as anyone else on the team. She’s joined by junior Katie Hoeg who has 69 assists to go along with 31 goals.
#4 Northwestern Wildcats vs #1 Maryland Terrapins
Just as the first semifinal is a rematch of a conference tournament final between teams that split their two previous games, the nightcap matches Big Ten foes Northwestern and Maryland. Since falling to Maryland 17-13 in the regular season, the Wildcats have run off seven straight wins including that 16-11 upset in the B1G Tournament final on the same field where the teams will meet Friday night. The Wildcats are led by senior attacker and Tewaaraton Award Finalist Selena Lasota whose 82 goals ranks fifth in the NCAA. She’s complemented by B1G freshman of the year Izzy Scane who is second on the team with 74 points. Sophomore Brennan Dwyer who averages 8.6 draw controls per game is Northwestern’s secret weapon.
Like Boston College, Maryland rolled into their conference tournament championship game with an unblemished record before suffering their first loss of the season though it didn’t cost them the top overall seed. Offensively, Maryland is the most balanced team in this season’s Final Four. The Terps feature six players with at least 50 points led by Jen Giles (76) and Erica Evans (70). Evans, the graduate transfer from Canisius has excelled in the postseason scoring 15 of her team leading 56 goals in the four games. Maryland goalie Megan Taylor joins the other four Tewaaraton finalists (Apuzzo, Arsenault, Giles and Lasota) on the field. She is only the second goalie to reach the finalist stage and could be the key to Maryland claiming the program’s 14th title.