The National Women's Hockey League continues its offseason with numerous player signings, its first international draft and several front office moves. In case you've missed anything over the last few weeks, let's take a look at what's happened in the league.
Four teams will battle for the national championship this weekend in Philadelphia as the women's championship weekend is set to take place. North Carolina, Maryland, Penn State, and Syracuse each have a chance to take home a title for their school.
This is the third time in four years that North Carolina will be in the tournament after the third-seeded Tar Heels won both the Atlantic Coast Conference and their first two playoff contests. North Carolina had to knock off two ACC opponents to get to this point. At 18-2 this season, the Tar Heels were two goals away from an undefeated year as both of their losses came by just a single goal. Both of those losses came to Florida and Maryland, the top two teams in the country.
Molly Hendrick scored two goals in the most recent victory against Notre Dame, and she led the team with a total of 67 points this season.
Meanwhile, this is the first Final Four appearance for Penn State since 1999, and the Nittany Lions have not been in a title game since 1989. Penn State knocked off in-state rival Penn and also the second-seeded Florida Gators to advance to its semifinal match against the Tar Heels.
Led by 80 points from Madison Cyr this season, Penn State is the only unseeded team in this championship weekend. The Lions are the first unseeded team since 2010 to make the final four.
It will be a rematch of a Final Four game last season as Maryland faces Syracuse in what would have been a top-tier ACC matchup in previous years. Maryland, now in the Big Ten and the top seed in the country, has won 52 out of its past 53 games and has established itself as one of the biggest powerhouses in the history of women's lacrosse. If both Maryland and North Carolina were to advance, it would be their third matchup in the finals in the past four seasons.
Led by Taylor Cummings, one of the best players in the country during her tenure, Maryland has nearly lost games to both North Carolina and Penn State this season, one of whom they would play if they can top Syracuse. While Cummings is the most discussed player, and she did have 74 points this season, Megan Wittle scored 73 points and led the team with 69 goals, showing that the Terrapins have plenty of offensive weapons.
Syracuse, 19-5 on the season overall, has had to battle to get to this position in the tournament, as they needed to win two one-goal contests to advance. Kayla Treanor leads the team with 89 points, and the team has four players with more than 60 points overall.
It won't be easy for Syracuse, with the Terrapins holding an all-time 19-1 record against the Orange.
However, history will go out the window this weekend, as all four teams have battled their way into the Final Four, and only one will come home with a victory. Two Big Ten teams and two ACC teams -- regardless of the result, it should be another excellent weekend of lacrosse.
(Photo credit: Penn State Women's LAX/Twitter)
Filed under: lacrosse; NCAA; NCAA postseason; penn state; syracuse; maryland; north carolina
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