Archive for the ‘Lacrosse’ Category

Terps fall short on Memorial Day again as Loyola captures first NCAA Championship

May 29, 2012

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.


Maryland, Loyola reach men's lacrosse Final Four

May 22, 2012

The possibility of an all-Maryland NCAA Men’s Lacrosse championship final is within reach. It would mark the first time that two teams from the Old Line State played in the final since back in 1975, when the Terps knocked off Navy 20-13.

Those that may be familiar with some of my past writings know that such a scenario would be absolutely ideal in my eyes. The only way it could be better is if the Final Four were again being held at M&T Bank Stadium this weekend, instead of up in Foxborough (where teams from our great state don’t seem to have the best of luck).

It would be Maryland’s second straight appearance in the championship final, and the second for head coach John Tillman in as many seasons. It’s been a great run for the Terps, who came into the tournament having lost two of their final four games, which resulted in an unseeded position in the tournament and quite the tough road to New England.

Tillman’s team responded though, slipping past Lehigh 10-9 in the opening round before putting on a clinic in perhaps their best performance of the season last Saturday. Maryland handled rival Johns Hopkins – the tournament’s #2 overall seed – in a way that has Terps fans once again thinking championship. The 11-5 victory over Hopkins gave the Terps just their second 2-0 season against their rival, and first since 1973.

Maryland faces a stiff test to get back to Championship Monday though, with another rival standing in their way – the Duke Blue Devils. Maryland and Dook have split so far this season, with the Terps winning 10-7 in College Park on March 3, and the Dookies picking up the victory in the first round of the ACC tournament, 6-5 on April 20.

The Blue Devils have won 12 of their past 13 games, with their only loss coming to Denver in Denver on April 27. They overpowered Colgate 17-6 last Sunday to reach their second straight Final Four, and will be will be looking for revenge after the Terps beat them on Championship Weekend last year by a convincing 9-4 score.

On the other side of the bracket, the surprising Loyola Greyhounds, ranked #1 for most of the season and the tournament’s top overall seed, take on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Loyola has reeled off an extremely impressive 16-1 record so far in 2012. Even more impressive is that their only loss came in overtime to Johns Hopkins – they haven’t lost in regulation all year. The Greyhounds beat Canisius 17-5 in the opening round of the tournament before squeaking past Denver last weekend 10-9. If they can get past the Irish, it would be their first appearance in the final since 1990 (lost to Syracuse 21-9).

So root hard for the Terps and Hounds this weekend. If they both win, we’ll be guaranteed to bring the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship Trophy back to Maryland for the first time since 2007 – even more infuriating is that it would be the state’s first title by a team not named Johns Hopkins since that aforementioned 1975 win.

Yeah, I know. Disgraceful.

If both squads fall, it would be a rematch of the 2010 final, won by Dook 6-5 in overtime over the Irish.

Nobody wants that.

Go Terps.

Go Greyhounds.

Hopefully Monday I’ll have to choose one of the two teams to root for (most likely Maryland), but as a fan of the state and the sport, I won’t really be able to lose. Sounds like a great re-“lax”-ing way to spend Memorial Day to me.

Failures on Faceoffs and Extra Man Doom Terps in Chapel Hill

March 25, 2012

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.

UMBC Upsets #4 Terps in Men's Lacrosse

March 7, 2012

As we enter our post-Ravens world here at B’More Birds’ Nest, my first post is going to be on college lacrosse. I played lacrosse in high school (and some club in college), and I know that many of my fellow Ravens/Orioles faithful, being Marylanders, are also fans of “lax.” If you’re not, well, first off – you don’t know what you’re missing, but secondly, I’m sorry to hear that. Feel free to ignore any and all lax posts from here on out. We’ll get some more O’s-centric stuff going here shortly.

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Just prior to faceoff Tuesday evening between the Maryland and UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) men’s lacrosse teams, I tweeted that I wouldn’t mind seeing my Alma mater (B.S. ’04, M.S. ’09) Retrievers knock off the heavily favored Terps. While I was confident that Maryland would be able to recover from an early season setback such as a loss in Catonsville, I also realized that Don Zimmerman’s team could use the confidence going forward. UMBC entered the contest at 1-2, with losses to Robert Morris (blegh) to start the year and a 10-9 overtime defeat at the hands of #17 Fairfield sandwiched around a win at Rutgers. Falling to 1-3 with a matchup looming against the #2 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium would put the squad squarely behind the eight ball before even beginning play in the tough America East conference.

As for Maryland, they had played better than most expected over their first few games, with decisive wins over Hartford, Georgetown, and #11 Duke. However, there had been times where the young Terps (only eight seniors on the roster) had shown flashes that their overachieving ways may be due to give way to some growing pains.

Tuesday night at UMBC though, those worries seemed to be quickly pushed aside as Maryland built a quick 3-0 lead, and sustained that margin through the half, which they entered leading 5-2. My hope of a Retriever upset seemed quite far-fetched, as UMBC struggled to find any offense through the game’s first 30 minutes.

However, after the half it was a different story.

Sophomore attackman Conor Finch (Boys’ Latin) fed Scott Hopmann (St. Mary’s) with 11:19 to go in the fourth to close the deficit to 6-4 before scoring himself to make the game 6-5 Terps with 9:24 to play.

For Maryland, we had seen glimpses of this kind of collapse before. Against Duke, they jumped out 5-1 in the first quarter and led 7-2 at halftime, and 9-3 at one point in the third quarter, before being outshot 25-6 by the Blue Devils in the second half and holding on by a 10-7 final.

When UMBC tied it up at six each just five seconds after Finch’s goal on a faceoff-to-net score by Phil Poe (DeMatha), the only question was whether the Retrievers would be able to, unlike Duke before them, finish off the comeback.

Zim’s squad answered with a resounding “yes” as two goals from Junior attackman Scott Jones put the home team up 8-6 with 6:08 to go. Despite going down a man twice over the game’s final six minutes, UMBC managed to hold on and edge out their cross-state rivals 8-7. It was UMBC’s first victory over the Terps since beating them in back-to-back regular season clashes in 2008 and 2009.

If the Retrievers can use this victory as a springboard to a Saturday upset over #2 Johns Hopkins, it would cap off one of the most memorable week’s in the program’s history. However, after watching the Retrievers completely dominate the faceoff circle (15/19) and clamp down on the potent Maryland attack, head coach Dave Pietramala and the Blue Jays won’t take UMBC lightly. Even if they fall to Hopkins, a solid showing should boost their confidence moving into America East play as they look to get into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.

As for the Terps, they now have a chance to either prove me right about being able to rebound from this early season letdown, or to disappoint all of us by letting it derail their budding successes. With home matchups against unranked Marist and #12 Villanova before traveling to #8 North Carolina (reeling a bit in their own right at 4-2 after a loss to unranked Penn), how this young team responds to some adversity will be a huge factor as they begin to jockey for NCAA position going into April. They start next month at home against #1 Virginia – the team that knocked them off last Memorial Day in the NCAA Championship game – so things get a lot tougher very quickly.

After making 14 saves against Duke, Maryland sophomore goalkeeper Niko Amato managed only four against UMBC. He’ll have to put this sub-par performance behind him and see the ball a bit better moving forward. Just like the Terps’ men’s basketball team – which is also quite young – the name of the game for the lacrosse team needs to be consistency. They can’t keep playing like world beaters for 10-12 minutes at a time only to go into huge lulls for extended periods – it will take a string of solid 60-minute performances for Maryland to find themselves again taking the field on Championship weekend.