It's funny how an East Coast sport like lacrosse is about to be dominated by a Midwest league.
Northwestern and Maryland will soon become Big Ten Conference rivals, and both are perennial powers in women's lacrosse. In fact, they are the two winningest programs in NCAA history.
On Friday, for the fourth time in the last five years, Northwestern and Maryland met up in lacrosse's equivalent of the Final Four.
No. 5 Northwestern, which has won seven national titles in the last nine years, was edged by No. 1 Maryland, a 10-time national champion, 9-6 in the national semifinals at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Maryland, site of Northwestern's fourth and fifth championships in 2008 and 2009 and its runner-up finish to Maryland in 2010.
This was Northwestern's 10th consecutive Final Four, a streak that began in 2005 when the Wildcats became the first team outside the Eastern time zone to win a national championship. Maryland holds the record for most consecutive Final Fours with 12 from 1990 to 2001.
"It's a pretty surreal feeling. Not many people, when they go to college, it's always a dream, but you never figure you're going to step away senior year with four Final Four appearances," Northwestern senior defender Kerri Harrington said. "It's a testament to the program."
The NCAA championship game on Sunday will pit Maryland against Syracuse, which defeated Virginia in Friday's other semifinal. The game will air live at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
"This team has so much love for each other. We all just really mesh," freshman midfielder Lydia Cassada said as the Wildcats prepared for their semifinal against Maryland. "I think that on the field, we finally found that. I mean, off the field, we get along so well; and on the field, we finally really came together."
Bruno busy: It will be another busy "off-season" for DePaul women's basketball coach Doug Bruno.
Fresh off leading DePaul to its first Big East title, Bruno was named to the coaching staff for the 2014 USA Basketball Women's World Championship team. The team, led by head coach Geno Auriemma of Connecticut and comprised of WNBA players, will conduct a training camp in early September and compete in the FIBA World Championship in Turkey from Sept. 27 to Oct. 5.
Bruno assisted Auriemma in leading the USA to the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics.
"Every time the phone rings and I find out I've got the opportunity to coach with USA Basketball, I'm always excited and always flattered," Bruno said. "Being able to coach the best players in the world and getting to coach with the best coaches in the world, I'm just overwhelmed."
The 12-player USA roster will be selected from a 33-player pool that includes Sylvia Fowles, Elena Delle Donne and Courtney Vandersloot of the Chicago Sky as well as former Stevenson star and Indiana forward Tamika Catchings, former Naperville Central star and Los Angeles forward Candace Parker and former Marshall star and New York guard Cappie Pondexter.
Cash returns: As the Chicago Sky attempts to get to 4-0 on Saturday, Swin Cash will be making her return to Allstate Arena.
Cash, a two-time Olympic gold-medal winner who started every game over the last two seasons for the Sky, rejected a one-year deal from the Sky that reportedly would have made her the highest paid player in the WNBA. Cash wanted a longer deal.
Just before the season began earlier this month, the Sky traded Cash to Atlanta for guard Courtney Clements. The deal also included an exchange of 2015 draft picks.
Cash, now in her 13th WNBA season, has had a slow start in Atlanta, playing just 19 minutes over two games.
• Patricia Babcock McGraw covers the Chicago Sky and also is a sideline reporter for Sky TV broadcasts. Contact her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter: