National championship match with Maryland represents last opportunity for revenge, history

first_imgAlyssa Murray stood around a pack of reporters in January, weeks before the season started. She was asked point blank if this was a final four-or-bust season.Murray chuckled.“National championship or bust,” she retorted.It was a bold proclamation, one that addressed the final hurdle in a season that would be full of them.On Sunday night at 8:30 at Towson’s Johnny Unitas Stadium, No. 2-seed Syracuse (21-2, 6-1 Atlantic Coast) will have the chance to get to the place that Murray claimed it was destined to be all along when it faces top-seeded Maryland (22-1, 6-1), the only team to beat the Orange this season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse has never won a national championship. No SU women’s team has ever won a championship. This season, the players have said all year, is about ending the drought. Accomplishing that will mean defeating a Maryland team that has troubled and beaten the Orange in both times they met this year.“It had to do with all our legacies,” Murray said. “We want to leave our mark. We’re never going to have this exact unit together on the field another time other than Sunday. There’s something to be said for that.”The Orange will have its hands full, though. Maryland, the top-ranked team in the country, beat SU in an early-season matchup at the Carrier Dome, 12-10.The second was a lopsided, 13-7 Maryland win in the ACC tournament final.“There’s a lot of lacrosse left,” SU head coach Gary Gait said at the time.But it’s been a virtual certainty since then that if Syracuse had any chance to win it all, it’d eventually have to knock off Maryland.“We’re really focused on playing our game,” Murray said. “Controlling what we can control. We’re working hard. We’re clicking.”The issues against Maryland started in the draw circle, and more specifically, UMD’s Taylor Cummings. In the March 10 matchup, Maryland won 15-of-24 in the draw circle. On April 27, the Terrapins controlled 13-of-22.SU midfielder Kailah Kempney said Cummings is strong, and is good at taking the ball straight up.“The game starts at the draw,” Kempney said. “Every possession starts at the draw. So yeah, I definitely feel (the pressure).”While Syracuse is busy preparing for Maryland’s top players and making adjustments to areas where it struggled in the past, the Terrapins have an admittedly different approach.UMD head coach Cathy Reese said the team isn’t focused on Kayla Treanor or Alyssa Murray, who combined for 16 points in Friday’s semifinal win over Virginia. It’s not focused on an SU defense that forced 17 turnovers against UVA.“Our focus isn’t about them, it’s on us,” Reese said. “We just need to make sure we’re doing what we’ve done all season, executing our game plan and sticking with what we do well.”Reese hopes it’s enough to take down a team that has yet to win its final game.Two years ago, Syracuse advanced to the national championship, but lost a two-goal heartbreaker to Northwestern.Last season, it was Maryland that ended Syracuse’s season in the national semifinals, in an 11-10 game that went down to the final moments.“We know how horrible that feeling in our stomach was when we lost two years ago and last year,” Murray said. “Feeling so horrible that we couldn’t get it done.”Gait said that his team’s success over the past few years is the product of the players that came before. Those that put the time in to develop the program into what it has become today.But the culmination of that development has yet to come.“This is the last shot,” Murray said. “There’s no other opportunity.” Comments Published on May 25, 2014 at 11:33 am Contact Sam: [email protected] | @SamBlum3 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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