ACC purring with six teams in NCAA lacrosse final fours

Championship weekend in both men’s and women’s Division I lacrosse has a uniform feel — three Atlantic Coast Conference teams and one from the Big Ten in each tournament.

Each also features the top four seeds, which means North Carolina, the top seed in both, remains in the hunt for a sweep for the second time in five years.

In the men’s bracket, the Tar Heels (13-2) will face reigning national champion Virginia (12-4), and No. 2 Duke (14-2) will play No. 3 Maryland (14-0). Those games are Saturday at UConn’s Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. The championship is Memorial Day.

On the women’s side, North Carolina (20-0) will meet Boston College (16-3) and second-seeded Northwestern (15-0) faces Syracuse (16-3). Those games are at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Maryland, on Friday, with the championship on Sunday.

For the men, the quarterfinals were nail-biters for the most part as three went into overtime, with only Virginia able to cruise to victory, 14-3 over Big East champ Georgetown behind six goals from Connor Shellenberger. UNC escaped against Rutgers, winning 12-11 on Connor McCarthy’s goal with two minutes left in the extra period. Maryland averted its first loss of the season with a 14-13 win over Notre Dame, thanks to Anthony DeMaio’s tally just 39 seconds into overtime. And, Duke beat Loyola Maryland 10-9 on Joe Robertson’s goal with under a minute left in OT.

In the women’s quarterfinals, North Carolina rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat No. 8 Stony Brook 14-11 as attacker Jamie Ortega scored four goals, Northwestern topped Duke 22-10 behind six goals from Lauren Gilbert and five from Izzy Scane, Syracuse took control in the second half to defeat Florida 17-11 behind six goals from freshman Emma Ward, and high-scoring Boston College easily topped Notre Dame 21-10 as Charlotte North had eight goals and Jenn Medjid added five.

Syracuse coach Gary Gait, a two-time national player of the year during his playing days in college with the Orange, is impressed.

“This year, it’s just been the most talented lacrosse year ever,” said Gait, who won three national championships at Syracuse (1988-90). “Each team is so stacked with those extra players (because of the coronavirus pandemic). It’s just been incredible lacrosse. The skill level’s been off the charts.”

Other things to know about the men’s and women’s NCAA lacrosse tournaments:

GAIT’S TIME?

The Syracuse women finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in both media polls, but coach Gary Gait is still chasing that elusive championship as his 14th season at the helm comes to a close. He’s guided the Orange to 12 NCAA appearances and two title games and is facing an unbeaten Northwestern team that has always presented problems.

The Wildcats have won seven titles, but the last was a decade ago and the Orange have won six of the past eight meetings, including 16-11 last year at Northwestern.

“We actually took it to them pretty good, so that’s a little bit of a confidence-builder to know that we match up pretty well against them,” Gait said. “At least it’s not like we’re a big underdog. It’s just a matter of who’s going to step up and play well, make big plays.”

Wildcats junior attack Izzy Scane leads the nation in goals (94) and points per game (7.80).

Northwestern will be the 10th top-five team the Orange have played this season. The Wildcats lead the all-time series, 14-6.

The Orange will be without high-scoring Megan Carney (49 goals), who suffered a season-ending injury in April. Meaghan Tyrrell has 40 goals and 102 points, the fifth player in Syracuse program history to crack the 100-point barrier.

ACC DOMINATION

The ACC has three teams in the final four of the women’s championship for the fifth time in league history (1998, 2011, 2014, 2015) and has had at least one team in the national semifinals in 31 straight tournaments and 35 times overall. The ACC also is already guaranteed to have at least one team in the national title game for the 11th time in the last 12 tournaments.

SOWERS SWAN SONG

Michael Sowers figured he was going to lead Princeton to big things his senior year before the coronavirus pandemic short-circuited those dreams. Last season, Sowers averaged 9.4 points per game (16 goals, 31 assists) as the Tigers started 5-0 and were ranked No. 3. Then the Ivies canceled the rest of the 2020 season and after some soul-searching Sowers got his degree and departed as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 302 career points (121 goals, 181 assists). He landed with the Duke Blue Devils as a graduate student for his final year of eligibility and has 35 goals and 44 assists heading into an NCAA semifinal, those dreams still alive, just in a different uniform.

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