It’s not about how you play in February or March, but how you play in May. The 2015 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament is proof that getting hot at the right time leads to NCAA Tournament success.
Following an action-packed weekend, three unseeded teams have advanced to the National Quarterfinals. Those teams have combined to win 35 of their last 36 games. Loyola is riding a nation’s best 16-game winning streak, Princeton has won eight straight and Penn State has won 11-of-12.
Loyola is the hottest team in the country, winners of 16 straight games after a dominant 19-12 win over #5 Boston College Saturday. The game was never close. The Greyhounds opened a 7-2 lead late in the first half and eventually opened an 18-9 advantage in the second half. Kara Burke had a monster game, tallying 10 points behind eight goals and two assists. The win set up a quarterfinal rematch with Syracuse, a team Loyola defeated to close out the regular season.
Another unseeded team, Penn State, defeated #7 Virginia 13-11 last weekend which isn’t too surprising considering the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten Conference and feature a stellar 15-4 overall record. Many expected Penn State to earn a seed after winning the conference tournament, but they let their play do the talking, going out and taking care of business and beating Johns Hopkins and Virginia last weekend.
Likely the biggest upset last weekend came when Princeton handed #5 Stony Brook just its second loss of the season (compared to 18 wins). Tied at three at the half, the Tigers outscored the Seawolves 5-1 in the second for the 8-4 win. Princeton held Stony Brook to just 10 shots on goal, six of which were saved by Ellie DeGarmo. Abby Finkelston led the offense with four goals by herself.
Other winners included #1 Maryland, #2 North Carolina, #3 Duke, #4 Syracuse and #8 Northwestern. Heading into the quarterfinals, the top four seeds are still the favorites to advance to the National Semifinals, but there are some intriguing unseeded teams who will pose a major challenge this coming weekend. After all, how you play in May is what matters most.