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Syracuse Women's Lacrosse: 10 Keys to Beating Maryland in the Final Four

Syracuse faces off against No. 1 Maryland for the right to go to the NCAA championship game. What does Syracuse have to do to pull off the upset?

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight, Syracuse will take on number-one ranked Maryland in the NCAA Semifinal game. These two are extremely familiar with each other. Not only did they already play once in the regular season, but Maryland has ended Syracuse's season the last three years in the tournament's final weekend.

History is on the Terrapins side as they are 19-1 all-time against Syracuse.

Maryland has had the Orange's number for years, but how can Syracuse take down the tournament favorite?

Here are ten things Syracuse needs to do to defeat Maryland. If you have any other suggestions besides the ten listed below, let me know what they are in the comments.

1. Get Going Early

Syracuse needs to create the tempo. Chances are this will be a fast paced game, but Syracuse needs to be driving the car. In their last two tournament games, SU has started a bit sluggish. This offense is made to be quick and efficient, we haven't seen that in the tournament. If they come out fast, it will put their Terps on their heels, something they aren't used to.

2. Draw Controls

The premiere matchup that everyone will be watching is Taylor Cummings vs. Kayla Treanor at the draw. The two best players in the country going head-to-head to determine possessions. Treanor is the best in the country at the draw so she has the edge over an extremely capable Cummings (fourth in the nation at the draw), but she still needs to execute and at times will have to rely on her teammates to get the ball. More draw controls means more possessions, more possessions means more chances to score, plain and simple.

3.  No Late Turnovers

Something the Orange have struggled with lately is handling the ball in the final minutes of a game. They blew a late lead in the ACC tournament game against UNC when they were holding the ball, and Syracuse almost lost last week on a Kelly Cross turnover that resulted in a tying goal and forced overtime.

If it comes down the the wire and history says it probably will, the last three tourney meetings Maryland has won by a combined total of six goals, then each possession will count. If Syracuse turns the ball over late, the Terrapins will make them pay for it. Each possession is valuable, but the ante is really upped when there isn't much time on the clock. Or they could never turn the ball over, that would be even better.

4.Capitalize on Opporunities

Kind of like the turnover point, every shot is valuable. If Syracuse has a free position, they need to capitalize on it. This Maryland defense is third best in the nation, they are not going to give you much. If they slip up, Syracuse needs to make them pay for it.

5. Win 50/50 Ground Balls

If that ball is on the ground, Syracuse better fight with all they have to get possession. Teams can take over games easily if they are beating their opponent to GB's. It all comes back to possessions.

If the Orange dominate the 50-50 ground balls, that's another possession they are awarded. Plus it takes a potential possession away from the Terps. Syracuse wants to be on offense as much as possible today. Don't underestimate ground balls. It's the hustle and gritty part of the game that plays a huge factor in the outcome.

6. Make the Terps Work to Clear

Countless times in press conferences you will hear Kayla Treanor and Gary Gait says in post game pressers that the team takes a lot of pride in their ride. And they do put a great amount of pressure on teams when they clear the ball. That needs to continue in this one.

They don't need a turnover on every clear attempt, that's not going to happen. A few turnovers would be great. But it's really about making Maryland really have to work to get that ball over the 30. If they pressure well enough, mistakes will happen and it will wear down the Terps.

7. Shoot, Shoot, Shoot

The more shots ya take, the more shots ya make. In it's last two games, Syracuse has put up a 16-shot performance against Stony Brook and then followed that up with 19 shots against USC, their two lowest totals this season. When teams are shooting in bunches it shows they aren't afraid to let a shot fly and take some chances.

Coaches love when their teams are ripping shots at the cage because it shows they are eager to score. Syracuse needs to be eager to score. I know I said that every possession matters and that may portray cautiousness on each possession to ensure a goal. But, this team is an offensive monster and they need to showcase it. Pepper the goal.

8. Contain Whittle and Cummings

Two of Maryland's best players on the offensive end. UMass face-guarded Megan Whittle and she still had four goals in the game, and we all know the capabilities of Taylor Cummings. Maryland is the top scoring offense in the country averaging over 15 goals a game.

Syracuse needs to lock down the two best scorers on the team. But they also can't lose sight of the other Maryland players as well as UMD has four scorers on its offense that have at least 35 goals. It's going to be interesting to see how Syracuse will play defense, but they must play as a team.

9. Get Nicole Levy Going

In the USC game, Nicole Levy didn't have a goal. In the Stony Brook game, she only had one. Both games were decided by a single goal. When Levy is feeling it, the offense is extremely explosive. But she has been extremely quiet in the tourney and that needs to change.

When the freshman is getting involved it adds a whole new element to the offense. She provides this team with a deadly outside shot, something defenses aren't used to dealing with. Plus, she has the ability to take attention away from Treanor, Majorana, and Donahue, giving them more space to work. The talent is there, it's time for her to finally show up in this tournament.

10. Make Megan Taylor Move

Maryland goal keeper Megan Taylor is one of the best in the country at what she does. She backs her impressive work in the cage with a 48.6% save-percentage. She has a keen eye for the ball, therefore easy shots won't faze her. Stick-side high is a breeze, even high and away shots seem routine for her. Syracuse can't let her stand around a pluck shots out of the air and off the ground. They need to make her move.

In other words, they must look for cutters, back-side passes, or the skip pass. Syracuse needs to create scenarios where Taylor has to shift herself in goal.

Think of ice hockey. The easiest goals are when a skater passes the puck across the crease to his teammate for a wide open look and the goaltender has to desperately dive to try and save the shot. That is what the Orange need to do.

Not necessarily making Taylor have to dive to save a shot. But making these types of passes will leave the goal wide open because Taylor will have to move her entire body to position herself for the shot instead of just her stick. It's confusing, but that's why there a cutters in lacrosse, it makes goalies have to move.

This list isn't the entire game plan Syracuse must follow. It will take a lot more then the ten items listed above to beat Maryland. But if they do these things they really have a shot to beat the tournament favorite.