No matter what, today was the final game of Maryland's season. It was the final game of the college lacrosse season. Twice already this decade, Maryland has experienced the feeling of their season ending in defeat as the season ended. The seniors on this team experienced it from the sidelines in 2012. Today they had a chance to vanquish those demons and the demons of previous Memorial Day defeats. Unfortunately it just wasn't to be. The offense couldn't quite find itself after great efforts against Carolina and Hopkins. Ryan LaPlante made some great saves, and the bounces just didn't go their way.
Charlie Raffa jumped on the opening face-off, giving the first possession of the game to Denver. On their first shot, Wes Berg ripped a high shot past Bernlohr. 1-0 Denver. Trevor Baptiste won the second face-off for the Pios and they got a quality look inside on their second offensive possession but Bernlohr made a nice save and Maryland picked up the groundball. The Terps were characteristically patient on their first look and had a few decent chances. Denver would force a turnover on Bryan Cole and went down and scored very quickly off a swim dodge and shot by Berg again. 2-0 Denver.
Raffa would win a big draw for the Terps to stem some Denver momentum. Despite how early it was you felt that Maryland really needed a goal to establish themselves in the game. They got one from their second line midfield, always big in championship games, as Colin Heacock wrapped around from behind and roped a righty shot to the roof of the net. 2-1 Denver. A few minutes later Maryland's second line midfield again made things happen, with two dangerous shots. Zach Wholley had a step down look that hit a pipe and then after they corralled the loose ground ball, Bobby Gribbin had a shot saved by Ryan LaPlante.
Wes Berg continued to torture the Terps in the opening frame following those two good Terp looks. Good ball movement from behind by Connor Cannizzaro, the former Terp, and Erik Adamson created a look from the top for Berg who beat Bernlohr with a side winding shot that was sniped to the top corner. 3-1 Denver.
Denver's 4th came from the former Maryland attackman Connor Cannizzaro. After a loose groundball was picked up the Pioneers, Tyler Pace found Cannizzaro cutting to the front who spun around and scored. 4-1 Denver.
Maryland hit yet another pipe with under ten seconds left in the half on a long range shot by Henry West. That would be two pipes hit by Maryland and one crease violation on Denver not called. Luck was most certainly not on the Terps side in the opening frame.
End of 1: Denver 4-1 Maryland
Matt Rambo got a big tally to open the scoring for Maryland in the second, on his customary dodge from behind and lefty liner that beat Ryan LaPlante. 4-2 Denver.
The game would descend into multiple long possessions over the next few minutes. Both teams made mistakes to turn the ball over to the other team. Eventually Denver would break the ice with 8:54 left, on a dodge down the alley and rocket to the top corner by Erik Adamson. 5-2 Denver.
Denver appeared to score again on a very similar goal to Jay Carlson's against Johns Hopkins on Saturday, but it was waved for goalie interference. Bernlohr made a save on a step down shot from Jack Bobzien, then Cannizzaro took it out of his stick and deposited it in the net. That is illegal. The ball went back to Maryland. Unfortunately for the Terps though, they continued to turn the ball over and were unable to get anything going on offense.
Maryland's D was able to bail the offense's lack of execution with some big saves by Bernlohr and good sliding to Denver's shooters. After a Denver throw away, finally signs of life were prevalent from the Terps. They fought for a groundball that could've resulted in a turnover. And then after touching it back up in the box they moved it much more quickly, with Rambo finding a cutting Bryan Cole from behind. Cole used a shot fake to fool LaPlante and lined a shot low into the net. 5-3 Dever.
Isaiah Davis-Allen got a big groundball on the ensuing face-off. The offense was very slow moving though and wasn't quite able to create anything. Eventually they were able to hold for one at the end of the half. They moved it way too slow then as well and only got one look for Henry West which was easily saved.
Halftime: Denver 5-3 Maryland
You could say Maryland was both pleased to be down just two at the half and also a bit unlucky. Denver controlled the first half. Had the better chances. But Maryland also hit two pipes on good looks and Denver had a goal that should have been waived off. Could've been 5-4 Maryland. The face-off game also needed to trend a bit more in the direction of Charlie Raffa if a comeback was to be on the cards.
Maryland won the opening faceoff of the second half after Matt Neufeldt forced a turnover on a Denver long pole. But the offense was not showing any more success and didn't create any quality looks. LaPlante made an easy save on Joe LoCascio after the shot clock was slapped on.
Denver also got hit with a shot clock on their possession, but after Maryland snuffed out a back door feed with two big hits, the ball found it's way to right to Zach Miller who shot high to high past Bernlohr. 6-3 Denver. The Pios struck again a few minutes later, this time courtesy of their second line midfield. Christian Wolford drove down the alley and shot one high into the net. 7-3 Denver.
The onslaught continued after a Baptiste face-off win. Wes Berg again found himself open near the top of the box and lined a low angle shot into the bottom corner. It was 8-3 Denver and Maryland was facing it's biggest deficit of the NCAA Tournament.
Offensively, there was little off ball movement for Maryland and every one was way too passive while moving around. Far too stationary. Finally someone made something happen, as Matt Rambo bull dodged from the left alley, switched to his right hand and scored despite getting pushed into the crease. 8-4 Denver.
End of 3: Denver 8-4 Maryland
The opening face-off of the fourth was won by Maryland, and after some quicker ball movement they appeared to have created an open look for Henry West, but the pass from Cole was picked off and Denver was able to clear.
Maryland's unluckiness with the pipes continued in the early stages of the 4th. Rambo found a cutting Bobby Gribbin in front of the net but Gribbin's shot rang off the bar. 3 pipes hit by the Terps in the game.
Denver continued to milk time off the clock as they went with possessions shots designed to keep the refs from putting the shot clock on them. And when the shot clock was waived off due to a Maryland save, the refs called Ikeda for a "push". The officiating was simply awful all day.
A few good looks came late in the game on offensive possessions for Maryland, but Ryan LaPlante continued to make some tremendous saves. He was likely the MVP of the ball game for the Pios, denying Maryland on some real quality chances that could've made the game closer.
Because sports can be super cruel, Maryland hit another pipe late in the game. Four. In one game. Sigh. Yeah.
Three more goals were scored. Two empty netters from Denver and Jay Carlson getting one from Joe LoCascio for the Terps. A bittersweet moment for the seniors.
Final: Denver 10-5 Maryland
Well. That's it. Maryland made a tremendous run to the Championship game but just didn't have enough left in the tank on Memorial Day. Denver was quite simply a better lacrosse team all day long. They had more on offense, their defense was very compact and denied the Terps quality looks, and they just outplayed them.
Maryland went 15-4 this season, tying a program record for wins in a season. They advanced to the national championship game for the 3rd time in five seasons. I know it's hard to care about that with this disappointing loss in the title game and the drought and all that. But appreciate what this team did this year. They had tons of losses from last year's team. They faced adversity before the season with the Matt Rambo situation and during the season when they were written off going into the NCAA Tournament. They fought through it and came one game short of a national title. That's something to be proud of.
I would like to thank you all for reading and commenting on my previews and recaps this year. I most certainly appreciate it. We'll be back in February for the 2016 season which hopefully has a happier ending.
It's cliche and not what anyone wants to hear....but there's always next year.