Cary Bound: The Essential Women's Lacrosse Final Four Preview (2024)

Cary Bound: The Essential Women's Lacrosse Final Four Preview (1)

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May 22, 2024

USA Lacrosse Magazine Staff

John Strohsacker

Championship Weekend has arrived.

The 2024 NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse semifinals Friday will feature unseeded Florida against top-seeded Northwestern (3 p.m. EDT, ESPN2) followed by third-seeded Syracuse against second-seeded Boston College at (5:30 p.m. EDT, ESPN2) at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. The winners will meet in the championship game Sunday (12 p.m. EDT, ESPN).

Here’s everything you need to know about the four teams still standing.


Record: 17-2
Final Four Appearances:15
NCAA Titles: 8 (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2023)
Coach:Kelly Amonte Hiller (23rd year)

How They Got Here:Defeated Denver 17-4 and (8) Penn 20-7

Series History: Northwestern is 4-6 all-time against Florida.

Last Meeting: Kat DeRonda scored with 13.8 seconds left in overtime to lift Northwestern to a 12-11 win in the 2014 NCAA quarterfinals, avenging a pair of one-goal losses to Florida that year in the American Lacrosse Conference.


  • Attacking the repeat.Erin Coykendall spoke of this recently. Maryland was the last team to win consecutive national championships. That was almost a decade ago. Parity has reared its head. Northwestern has never had a problem playing with a chip on its shoulder and has looked unstoppable in the NCAA tournament so far, outscoring its two opponents 37-11.
  • The three-headed monster.The Wildcats boast the best attack trio in the country and it’s not even close. Reigning Tewaaraton winner Izzy Scane is the frontrunner for the award this year. Coykendall was a finalist last year. Madison Taylor is a finalist this year. There’s just no way to neutralize all three of them.
  • Goalie Molly Lalibertybackstopped Northwestern’s run to its eighth NCAA championship last year. Though her save percentage (47.3 percent to 43.2 percent) and goals against average (8.61 to 10.4) are down this year, she has risen to the occasion before and has played in three straight Championship Weekends going back to her time at Division III Tufts.

USA Lacrosse All-Americans:Erin Coykendall, A (1st); Izzy Scane, A (1st), Madison Taylor, A (2nd); Kendall Halpern, D (2nd); Sammy White, D (3rd); Samantha Smith, M (HM); Carleigh Mahoney, D (HM)

MVP Watch

The Wildcats will go as far as Izzy Scane carries them. Part of her value during Championship Weekend last year was on the ride, but the new green card rules will limit how aggressive she can be in that phase of the game.

Star in the Making

Is Madison Taylor technically still “in the making” as a Tewaaraton finalist? It’s her offense entirely next year, and the U.S. Women’s U20 Training Team member can take over a game even with Scane and Coykendall next to her.


Record: 18-3
Final Four Appearances:7
NCAA Titles: 1 (2021)
Coach:Acacia Walker-Weinstein (12th year)

How They Got Here:Defeated Princeton 21-16 and Michigan 14-9

Series History: Boston College is 10-18 all-time against Syracuse but has won the last six games in the series, including the 2021 NCAA championship game.

Last Meeting: The Eagles successfully defended their ACC title with a 15-8 victory over the Orange on April 28, their sixth straight win in the series.


  • BC peaking in May. We’ve seen this story before. The Eagles are eyeing their seventh straight title game appearance. The current seniors were true freshmen when they won it all in 2021. All-Americans Belle Smith, Kayla Martello and Sydney Scales are no strangers to the spotlight. “They’re an incredible group of leaders,” coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein said. “They’ve been through heartbreaking losses. They’ve pushed the program forward with back-to-back ACC championships. They led our team to the first-ever national championship a few years ago. They’ve been through a lot. I don’t think there’s another senior class out there that has the experience that these guys do. That’s what brings me confidence. I trust our leaders.”
  • Cassidy Weeks is clutch. Four of her 39 goals this year have been game winners, including the overtime tally that gave BC an 11-10 win April 18 in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
  • The transfers are cooking. The Eagles made the biggest splashes of the offseason, adding All-American attackers Rachel Clark (Virginia) and Emma LoPinto (Florida). They’ve combined for 170 points. “We’re finally using all our weapons and playing together, and it's just so much fun,” Clark said after the quarterfinal win over Michigan.

USA Lacrosse All-Americans:Belle Smith, M (1st); Sydney Scales, D (1st); Rachel Clark, A (2nd); Cassidy Weeks, M (2nd); Mckenna Davis, A (HM); Emma LoPinto, A (HM); Kayla Martello, A (HM); Becky Browndorf, D (HM); Shea Dolce, G (HM)

MVP Watch

Ace defender Sydney Scales already has an ACC championship MVP award in her pocket after she took over in the conference tournament and was the biggest difference maker in wins over Notre Dame and Syracuse. She had six caused turnovers and 10 ground balls in those two games. “Sydney Scales is playing off the charts right now,” Walker-Weinstein said. “She’s one of the greatest competitors BC has ever had.”

Star in the Making

Scales hardly goes it alone on a Boston College defense that is tied with Michigan for first nationally with an opponent-adjusted defensive efficiency of 18.2 percent, according to Lacrosse Reference. Highly touted recruit and U.S. Women’s U20 Training Team defender Lydia Colasante has been as good as advertised starting alongside Scales and Florida transfer Becky Browndorf.

Cary Bound: The Essential Women's Lacrosse Final Four Preview (3)

Emma Ward and Syracuse have lost the last six meetings against Boston College.

Rich Barnes


Record: 16-5
Final Four Appearances:10
NCAA Titles: None
Coach:Kayla Treanor (3rd year)

How They Got Here:Defeated Stony Brook 15-10 and (6) Yale 19-9

Series History: Syracuse is 18-10 all-time against Boston College but has lost the last six games in the series, including the 2021 NCAA championship game.

Last Meeting: Despite a sizable advantage on the draw, the Orange could not break through BC’s defensive pressure nor contain its transition offense in a 15-8 defeat in the ACC championship game April 29.


  • Is this the year? Syracuse has made it to Championship Weekend 10 times since 2008, falling short in the finals in 2012, 2014 and 2021. Coach Kayla Treanor played on the 2014 team and coached against the Orange as a BC assistant in 2021. No one wants this more.
  • Kate Mashewske is on one.The Orange’s ace center has 78 draw controls over the last four games, including 20 against Stony Brook and 15 against Yale in the NCAA tournament. Her 220 draw controls are a Syracuse single-season record, surpassing the previous mark set by Treanor. “She’s playing her best lacrosse,” Treanor said. “She’s gotten so much better as the year’s gone on. Coming off last year when she tore her ACL — the physical and mental journey for her to get back to this stage — I give her so much credit.”
  • Knock on wood.Mashewske’s was just one in a series of injuries that had decimated Syracuse’s roster in recent years. This year, the Orange have remained relatively healthy and that continuity has helped especially on offense, where the Emma Show (Emma Tyrrell and Emma Ward) has picked up where the Meg Show (Megan Carney and Meaghan Tyrrell) left off.

USA Lacrosse All-Americans:Katie Goodale, D (1st); Emma Tyrrell, A (2nd); Olivia Adamson, A (3rd); Emma Ward, A (HM); Kate Mashewsky, M (HM); Bianca Cheverie, D (HM)

MVP Watch

Emma Tyrrell paced Syracuse with seven goals and two assists in its quarterfinal win over Yale. “Emma makes my job really easy. She catches and finishes the ball unlike anyone I’ve ever played with,” said Ward, who had three goals and four assists. “Her sister was pretty good, too.”

Star in the Making

Katie Goodale and Bianca Chevarie are veteran anchors on defense, but the unit also boasts a pair of emerging stalwarts in sophom*ore Coco Vandiver and freshman Kaci Benoit.

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Florida coach Amanda O'Leary is making her first Final Four appearance since 2012.

John Strohsacker


Record: 20-2
Final Four Appearances:2
NCAA Titles: None
Coach:Amanda O’Leary (15th year)

How They Got Here:Defeated North Carolina 17-8, (5) Virginia 13-8 and (4) Maryland 15-9

Series History: Florida is 6-4 all-time against Northwestern.

Last Meeting: Northwestern defeated Florida 12-11 in overtime in the 2014 NCAA quarterfinals, the former ALC rivals’ third one-goal game of the season.


  • Reloaded. With the departures of leading scorer Emma LoPinto and defender Becky Browndorf to Boston College and star goalie Sarah Reznick not using a final year of eligibility, it seemed as if Florida would take a step back in 2024. Instead, Amanda O’Leary made good on her confidence in the fall by leading the Gators to their first Championship Weekend appearance in 12 years.
  • Florida’s mantra this season: road warriors.The Gators have the nation’s No. 1 scoring offense (18.1 goals/game) and No. 4 scoring defense (8.2 goals/game). Those numbers are influenced by a weaker schedule than some of the nation’s other top teams, but Florida has shown through its difficult path in the NCAA tournament — North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland — that those numbers can hold up against top competition. “We have a road to pave. However that road took us was the way we were going to go,” O’Leary said. “Going up to Virginia and playing Carolina and Virginia, then having to go on the road to Maryland, we were happy to take that path.”
  • The emergence of redshirt sophom*ore goalie Elyse Finnelle has been a key factor in Florida’s 20-game winning streak. Finnelle started the first three games of the season but struggled. She has started the last nine games, going 5-0 against NCAA tournament teams, and has a 66-percent save percentage in the last 18 games. As is, her 54.1 save percentage for the season is third-best in the country.

MVP Watch

The leader of the nation’s No. 1 offense is senior Maggi Hall. The 5-foot-11 senior attacker has improved her numbers every season in Gainesville, culminating with this year’s school-record 114-point (60G, 54A) effort. Hall is coming off a season-high six-goal game against Maryland and has 11 goals in the Gators’ three NCAA tournament wins.

Star in the Making

Defenders Theresa Bragg, a sophom*ore, and Ashley Dyer, a freshman, have each started all 22 games and done well. Each has 21 ground balls while Dyer leads the team with 18 caused turnovers and Bragg ranks second with 12.

Written By

USA Lacrosse Magazine Staff

Since 1978, USA Lacrosse Magazine has inspired generations of lacrosse families to love this great game and leave it better for the next. We harness the power of storytelling to help fuel the sport’s growth and enrich the experience of participants.

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