Taylor's Takes: Previewing the Division I Women's NCAA Quarterfinals

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER


Taylor Cummings is a three-time Tewaaraton Award winner, a member of the U.S. women’s national team, the inaugural Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse champion and the head coach at McDonogh (Md.). “Taylor’s Takes” is presented by Gait Lacrosse. Be legendary.

What a whirlwind last weekend’s lacrosse action turned out to be, but in the absolute best way possible. Women’s lacrosse fans had the opportunity to watch TWENTY-ONE highly competitive NCAA tournament games last weekend — something that just a few years ago would have never been possible. Of those 21 matches, 17 of my predictions from last week were correct, leaving my projected bracket still largely intact.

First round action kicked off Friday with 13 games throughout the day, and while there was some overlap from game to game, the spacing of these events in general was much better than in 2021. I only had to split screens for two games and have one on television on as opposed to the quadruple split like last year, so I will happily take it. We saw a few chalk victories on Friday, including big wins from Stony Brook over Drexel, Florida over Mercer, Loyola over Mount St. Mary’s and Northwestern over Central Michigan.

But we also witnessed a few games that were much tighter (or even more lopsided) than originally anticipated. Jacksonville came out firing on all cylinders and stunned a Stanford squad that looked a bit slow in every area on the field. Duke and Johns Hopkins went back and forth in College Park before the Blue Devils pulled away in the third quarter to secure a second-round game against Maryland on Sunday. Denver throttled Vermont, Michigan dominated Notre Dame and James Madison was steady in its victory over UConn, even in a downpour.

The biggest surprise of all on Friday was the Syracuse-Fairfield game, which came down to the final few minutes. Syracuse just barely squeaked by a Fairfield squad that played a methodical, disciplined game and had chances to win up until the final whistle. The Orange looked to be caught on their heels defensively. They had difficulty between the pipes and seemed surprised by the solid defense of Fairfield. They managed to get the win in the end, but it certainly wasn’t the prettiest lacrosse we’ve seen from Syracuse this season.

Moving forward to Sunday’s second round, the upset circus that many (including myself) thought would occur throughout the day simply did not happen. In some of the toughest second-round matches I’ve ever seen, I was truly impressed with the discipline and composure of all seeded teams on Sunday.

All eight seeded squads earned their way to quarterfinal action on Thursday with the closest margin of victory being three goals in the Northwestern-Michigan match.

  • North Carolina put on an offensive clinic against Virginia from the opening whistle, and Loyola dismantled the James Madison zone with swift efficiency.

  • Stony Brook’s defense looked simply impenetrable for much of the second half against Rutgers, while Syracuse had a full 60-minute battle with Princeton before freshman Olivia Adamson put the game out of reach for the Orange.

  • Florida handled a Jacksonville team that was flying high from Friday’s win with relative ease with quick transition goals and a solid defensive game plan.

  • Maryland dominated the draw even with Duke’s Maddie Jenner in the circle and used a 10-goal run to end the Blue Devils’ season.

  • Despite a huge error from referees with one of the Eagles’ goals, Boston College kept Denver at bay by five with balanced scoring and a sound day in net from Rachel Hall.

  • And in the last game of the day, Northwestern and Michigan threw punches back and forth until the Wildcats’ pure control in the draw circle became too much for the Wolverines to handle.

All eight seeds moving forward tells me is that the NCAA committee did their job well and was able to recognize the exceptional talent level of these elite teams. With each of these teams earning their way into the Elite Eight, we are in for an absolute treat come Thursday. Below are my predictions for these quarterfinal matchups!







(2) Maryland vs. (7) Florida, 12 p.m.

  • Deciding Factor: The Draw. When the Gators and Terps met in College Park earlier this season on February 26, it was the draw that told the story, as Maryland secured 24 draws to Florida’s six and later secured an 18-6 victory. Coming off a Duke game in which the Terps outdrew the Blue Devils’ prolific draw team 18-10, the adjustment in the draw circle will need to be the Gators’ primary concern. They lost the draw 17-12 against Jacksonville, but they were able to make every ball a 50-50 battle with their gritty circle play. If the Gators are to leave College Park with a W, they will need to continue that pattern.

  • Predicted Winner: Maryland. Between the draw battle, the balance of scoring on the offensive end and the solid play of Sterling in cage, the Terps will be tough for Florida to minimize for a full 60  minutes, especially in College Park. 

(3) Boston College vs. (6) Loyola, 2:30 p.m.

  • Deciding Factor: Detwiler vs. North. Loyola’s top defender, Katie Detwiler has been challenged throughout the season but will face her toughest matchup yet in Boston College’s Charlotte North. North is best known for her ability to finish from just about anywhere and has a deadly quick release. Detwiler has impeccable footwork and lightning-quick hands of her own and needs to contain North herself until the help slides arrive. The North-v-Detwiler battle will not just take place on Loyola’s defensive end but in the draw circle as well where both can create havoc and generate possession for their teams. This matchup within the game is one I am truly fascinated to watch unfold.

  • Predicted Winner: Loyola. I’m going with the upset here. I’m predicting that Loyola comes out on top in what I think will be the tightest game of the day. Both teams are so incredibly similar, as each squad has prolific scorers who dominate the draw circle, stout defenses who play aggressive yet clean man-to-man style defense and solid goalies who can dictate momentum from their play in the crease. This is going to be a fun one!

(4) Northwestern vs. (5) Syracuse, 5 p.m.

  • Deciding Factor: Turnovers. Northwestern earned a 16-15 overtime victory in the first meeting between these two teams, and as the score suggests, pretty much every statistical category in that game was even. The one area both teams will be looking to firm up on will be turnovers. Northwestern had 16 while Syracuse had 14 — a testament to the chaos both teams’ rides and defenses create — but a stat that neither coaching staff will be happy with. The team that values the ball more and keeps calm under pressure will be victorious.

  • Predicted Winner: Syracuse. This is the hardest game for me to predict because both Northwestern and Syracuse haven’t been playing their best lacrosse as of late. I think Syracuse will pull the win out in the end, but this is a game that could truly go either way depending on which version of each team shows up on game day. Other than limiting turnovers, the Orange will also need win the draw battle. If they can do so consistently, their balanced offense may prove too tough for the players in Northwestern’s zone to handle.

(1) North Carolina vs. (8) Stony Brook, 7:30 p.m.

  • Deciding Factor: Stony Brook’s zone. North Carolina’s offense is one of the most balanced and talented I’ve ever seen. They share the ball well, have numerous threats who all do different things and can attack teams from anywhere at any time. Stony Brook’s patented zone defense has played well all season long, but their biggest test will most certainly come from the Heels. If Stony Brook can generate controlled chaos for a full 60 minutes and defend the inside of the 8-meter well, they may just be able to pull off the upset.

  • Predicted Winner: North Carolina. I think North Carolina’s talent is impressive, but its combined lacrosse IQ all over the field is exceptional, making them twice as hard to beat. Not many teams have figured out how to successfully beat Stony Brook’s zone over the years, but I have a feeling this team will be able to find success against it as the game goes on.

TAYLOR’S TOP 10

1. North Carolina
2. Maryland
3. Boston College
4. Syracuse
5. Loyola
6. Northwestern
7. Stony Brook
8. Florida
9. Princeton
10. Rutgers

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