Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.
For the second time in 14 years, the Maryland men’s lacrosse team finds itself in the unenviable position of losing back-to-back National Championship games. After losing to Princeton in the ’97 and ’98 title games, the Terps failed to reach Memorial Day again until last season, when they fell to Virginia 9-7. With Monday’s 9-3 defeat at the hands of the Loyola Greyhounds, Maryland continues to be perpetual runners-up.
It was another inspired run in the NCAA tournament for second-year head coach John Tillman’s squad, as they once again fought from an unseeded position to reach the title game. Just like last year, this string of wins featured a sweet victory over the rival Duke Blue Devils, who the Terps manhandled in the Final Four on Saturday, 16-10.
There are no medals awarded for semifinal victories though, and as sweet as beating Duke is for Maryland fans, that’s how bitter it tastes to come up just shy of the ultimate goal.
Perhaps for the Terps to take the next step and finally capture their first national title since 1975, Tillman needs to find a way to put together a more complete regular season in 2012, one that will have the Terps facing an “easier” road to championship Monday by securing a high seed in the tournament.
That will be easier said than done, as Maryland stands to lose many key contributors, including seniors Joe Cummings (31 goals, 19 assists) and Drew Snider (24, 7).
Tillman lost several starters after last year’s loss to Virginia though, and still managed to guide his team to one win shy of a title.
Terps fans, though disappointed now, have a bright future to look forward to.
On the other side, Loyola and head coach Charlie Toomey completed an even more impressive beating-of-the-odds to claim their first national championship in team history. While the Terps rose to the top from the bottom of the NCAA tournament bracket, Loyola’s journey was a season-long affair which saw them go from unranked (not in the preseason top 20) to #1 in the country, to #1 overall seed in said tournament.
While Loyola had played in the title game once before – in 1990, a 21-9 thrashing at the hands of Syracuse – they had never had a season quite like this one.
Their only loss came in overtime to Charles Street rival Johns Hopkins, at Homewood, in overtime. Still, many saw them as overrated, despite victories over national powerhouses Duke, Ohio State, and Denver.
The Greyhounds and Toomey – who was the starting goalkeeper on that 1990 team – put that chip on their shoulder and definitively brought home their first championship trophy.
After an easy 17-5 win over Canisius in the opening round, the ‘hounds survived a scare at the hands of rival Denver 10-9 (their third victory over them in 2012, by a total margin of five goals) to earn the right to play at Gillette Stadium on Memorial Day weekend. They built a 7-3 lead over 2010 runner up Notre Dame and held on for a 7-5 victory, before crushing the Terps on Monday.
Maryland took a 3-2 lead with 10:40 remaining in the second quarter.
However, the Terps would. Not. Score. Again.
In a defensive performance for the ages, Loyola held Maryland scoreless for nearly 40 minutes to end the game. Considering the Terps had hung 16 on Duke just 48 hours before, this was an even more impressive accomplishment.
In a matchup that ensured the state of Maryland would bring home it’s first NCAA Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse Championship since 1975 – that is, by anyone other than Johns Hopkins – it is worth noting that a local product had a huge impact.
Loyola graduate student Eric Lusby (Severna Park ’07) set a record for most goals in a single NCAA tournament (17) with his fourth against the Terps on Monday.
“We knew what we had in our locker room through the whole year. It’s just been an unbelievable journey,” said Lusby.
Congratulations to the Loyola Greyhounds, and thank you for bringing the trophy back to Maryland, where it belongs.