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Maggi Hall and the Florida offense have the Gators in the Final Four.

Taylor's Takes: Will There Be a First-Time Champ?

Presented by:
Gait Lacrosse
May 20, 2024
Taylor Cummings
John Strohsacker

When I was in college, being one of the last four teams standing always struck me as super special. We were some of the 120 or so players left practicing, preparing and pushing toward our ultimate goal — a national championship.

School was out, exams were complete and winning was the one thing on our minds. We were so close to hoisting the trophy, we could almost taste it — yet the hardest work was still ahead of us. I always thought we were the luckiest people in the country to be in that position and to get the extra days and moments together. It was honestly a struggle, though, to focus strictly on lacrosse while also trying to be grateful for the moments.

Getting to the Final Four is rewarding. Getting to a national title game is even more exciting. But winning a national championship is the hardest and absolute best thing I’ve personally ever been part of. I’m lucky enough to know firsthand what the four remaining 2024 teams are feeling and cannot wait to see them compete on the sport’s biggest stage.

After landslide victories for each of these teams in quarterfinal action, I have a feeling the last three games of the 2024 season will be much different. Players play harder, coaches coach with more passion and fans are more invested than ever.

The team that remembers the plan, plays with confidence and poise and channels its nerves into impassioned execution will be the one that hoists the trophy come Sunday.

But who will play on Sunday, and who will come out on top?

Northwestern or Florida?

After watching both games Thursday, I’m going to go for the upset and say Florida plays for a natty on Sunday. Florida has quietly improved in every facet of its game after an 0-2 start and looks to be firing on all cylinders. The Gators have multiple offensive weapons that are comfortable facing both zone and man schemes, a defensive lockdown option in Theresa Bragg and a red-hot goalie in Elyse Finnelle who is seeing the ball well at the moment.

The Gators are one of the few teams that I think match up incredibly well with the Wildcats from end to end and have the ability to put them on their heels from the start. The keys for Florida will be for Liz Harrison to control the draw, for the offense to play unselfish and disciplined under immense defense pressure and for the defense to contain the three-headed monster in Erin Coykendall, Madison Taylor and Izzy Scane. They don’t need to play lights out, but they do need to play solid across the board to make it to Sunday’s championship.

Syracuse or Boston College?

These teams have played against one another countless times over the past few years, both in ACC action and NCAA tournament games. The trend with most of these recent games has been back and forth action eventually resulting in the Eagles coming out alive by a small margin. With Acacia Walker-Weinstein and Kayla Treanor having coached together for so many years, they know one another very well and can likely predict how the other will gameplan and respond in a rematch. It is so difficult to play against the same team three times in one season, and I’m fascinated to see how they both adjust this time.

Despite the results favoring BC as of late, I’m going to go with Syracuse. Similar to Florida, the Orange offense has been humming and improving since February, and their zone defense has tightened up tremendously. If Kate Mashewske can dominate the draw circle like she has as of late and the offense can remain balanced and loose against BC’s stout man defense, they can absolutely make their way to the championship game on Sunday.

Syracuse or Florida?

Should Florida and Syracuse both win Friday, there will officially be a new champion crowned in women’s lacrosse regardless of outcome. That is something that is truly exciting for our game and frankly something that is needed for us to continue to grow. Assuming my initial predictions are correct, I’d go with Syracuse to bring the trophy back to the Dome.

Many players on this 2024 team have been so close to hoisting the trophy and haven’t done so. That unsatisfied, gut-wrenching feeling lives in the back of their minds and fuels a fire that’s difficult to describe. And I’m speaking purely from my own experience.

Treanor has championship experience as a player and coach in which she’s both won and lost and can use both to guide her team to victory. I wouldn’t bet against a legend like Treanor in the biggest moment of her coaching career.

Regardless of the outcome, though, this 2024 season has been a treat for us all and I’m continually impressed by the talent and growth we see year in and year out! Time to see who comes out on top once and for all!