After a week’s layoff following their 11-5 victory over Villanova in College Park, the University of Maryland Men’s lacrosse team had hoped to carry the momentum of back-to-back victories into their matchup with ACC rival North Carolina. Instead, the Terps’ struggles in the faceoff circle and in the extra man game propelled the Tar Heels to an 11-10 victory.
The game ended up being closer than it probably should have. Carolina had an 11-9 lead with under one minute to play, and the Terps had just turned the ball over and picked up an illegal check penalty. The Heels should have been able to run their extra man offense and likely run out all or most of the clock with the two goal advantage.
However, upon receiving the illegal shot to the head from Kevin Cooper, Greg McBride of Carolina retaliated, diving at Cooper’s legs. McBride swung and connected a few times, and all hell broke loose, with both benches clearing. When the dust settled, both teams had been penalized several times (both Cooper and McBride were ejected), but the Heels got the worst of it, with three men in the box to Maryland’s two. Freshman defenseman Goran Murray scored to pull the Terps within 1 with 20 seconds to play.
The Terps needed a faceoff win and another quick score in order to force overtime. Given the way the game had unfolded to that point though, that was easier said than done.
At midfield, Carolina’s R.G. Keenan dominated Curtis Holmes at the faceoff X, winning 5 of 8 draws in the first half, and 14 of 21 for the game to that point. Maryland brought out freshman Charlie Raffa for the critical faceoff with just 20 seconds to play, and Raffa responded, making a great check and clearing pass to set up what looked to be the game-tying score.
Unfortunately for Terps fans, senior Joe Cummings couldn’t handle the feed in front of the crease from junior Owen Blye, and the final horn blew with Carolina barely hanging on, 11-10.
Holmes’ struggles were detrimental for Maryland all afternoon. As a result of losing so many faceoffs, the Terps were unable to sustain any considerable momentum, and their largest lead on the day was two at 8-6 early in the fourth quarter. From that point on, Carolina pretty much played “make it, take it” scoring five of the game’s next six goals until the melee broke out.
In addition to struggling on faceoffs though, Maryland’s other bugaboo on Saturday afternoon was the play of their extra man offense. Maryland’s EMO finished the day just 2/8, and one of those was in the unconventional three men down to two men down situation that followed the fight. In their regular EMO, Carolina held the Terps to just one goal, despite the Heels having racked up over eight minutes in penalties.
The weather played a role as well. Playing on a natural grass surface in Chapel Hill in a steady rain, Carolina appeared to adjust to the slippery surface much better than Maryland did. Watching the game, it just seemed like the Terps couldn’t get it through their heads that any kind of spin dodge was likely to result in the player laying flat on the grass; they just kept trying, and kept falling down. Carolina, on the other hand, utilized more straight-ahead speed dodges and feeds to effectively keep their feet, maximize possessions, and pepper the net.
Maryland has now lost two of their last four, and things don’t get any easier moving forward. A 2011 NCAA Championship Game rematch against Virginia looms next Saturday in College Park. The Cavaliers are coming off their first loss since losing to Duke in the ACC Championship Game last April, having fallen to Johns Hopkins 11-10 in overtime on Saturday.