- Associated Press - Saturday, May 26, 2012

STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Taylor Thornton scored twice, including the game-winning goal with 16:19 remaining, and second-seeded Northwestern advanced to the NCAA women’s lacrosse championship game with a 9-7 victory over No. 3 Maryland on Friday night.

Shannon Smith took one shot on goal, but had four assists. She set up goals by Alex Frank, Jessica Russo, Kara Mupo and Lacey Vigmostad.

“Obviously, we’re extremely excited about the win tonight against a phenomenal Maryland team,” Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said.

“I think that our girls played with a lot of heart and poise. They didn’t get down when we got down and we could not be more excited to be in another championship game.”

Erin Fitzgerald and Amanda Macaluso also scored for Northwestern (20-2), which will face fourth-seeded Syracuse for its seventh title in eight years. The Orange advanced with a double overtime victory over top-seeded Florida in the first semifinal.

Katie Schwarzmann scored three goals for Maryland (19-4), which lost to the Wildcats in last year’s championship game. Last year, the Terrapins lost to the Wildcats after opening a three-goal lead, they held a slim two-goal margin early in the second half before struggling to maintain possession.

“Draws were really important,” Schwarzmann said. “They did a great job of coming up with those and really maintaining possession when they had the ball. I think we came out there and tried to fight for those. We could have done a better job obviously but when we had possession, we had a few too many turnovers. We just couldn’t do what we needed to do.”

Kristy Black, Karri Ellen Johnson, Kelly McPartland and Brooke Griffin also scored for Maryland, which had won eight straight games.

The game-winner occurred when Thornton made it 8-6 by getting past a defender and going up the middle to beat Maryland goaltender Brittany Dipper for her 31st goal of the season.

“In the second half for us, I think the main difference was draws,” Terrapins coach Cathy Reese said. “We couldn’t get possession and we were doing a better job of that in the first half and just couldn’t seem to knock it free in the second.

“The one thing that we should have done a better job of was finishing the opportunities that we had. We had great looks at goals, we really did. We didn’t finish up.”

The second-half comeback was fueled by dominating possession. Northwestern won

seven of eight draw controls in the half and 13 of 18 overall.

“For me personally, we’ve been in that position so many times this year,” Smith said. “I knew it was going to come down to getting the draw control. We were running fine on offense. We were very patient looking for the open cutters and I think every person on the offensive end did a phenomenal job with cutting, keeping their defenders busy and allowing our offense to move.

“I never once felt rattled because we’ve been there so many times,” Amonte Hillier said. “I think that’s a testament to how resilient this team is.”

The Wildcats have won 40 of 59 draw controls since losing 18 of 23 three weeks ago against Florida.

“We knew draw controls were going to be a big key point for this game,” Thornton said.

The Terrapins overcame a one-goal deficit midway through the first half and took a 5-4 lead into halftime on Johnson’s 54th goal of the season.

Schwarzmann gave the Terrapins a two-goal lead less than three minutes into the second half, but Northwestern tied it on goals by Mupo and Macaluso 49 seconds apart.

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