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2016 NCAA men's lacrosse championship: Maryland lost to North Carolina, but let's appreciate this season

This loss hurts, but let's appreciate how hard it is to even get to back-to-back title games.

NCAA Lacrosse: National Championship-North Carolina vs Maryland Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to find another emotion besides sadness or disappointment to describe how everyone feels about the end of the Maryland men's lacrosse team's season.

Especially for head coach John Tillman, who fought back his emotions in front of a room of journalists following his team's championship loss to North Carolina.

"I told them I loved them, which I do," Tillman said about what he told his players following Chris Cloutier's overtime dagger that gave the Tar Heels a 14-13 victory and a national title.

"You want to make it better and that's the hardest thing. You just cant."

Once the dust settles, it'd be wise to take a step back and reflect on the 2016 season, because you might find yourself feeling proud of this group of players instead.

Virtually any lacrosse program would kill for the "problems" that Maryland lacrosse has. Four unsuccessful finals trips is definitely frustrating, but the fact of the matter is they're there in the first place. Does anyone know how hard it is to get to a collegiate championship game? Let alone to do that four times?

This loss may hurt a lot more than any previous trip to championship weekend, but appreciate that that's a product of Maryland being astronomically more prepared to win it all.

"The closer you get, the harder it is when you lose," Tillman said.

Just look at the difference between the past two championship matches.

In 2015, Maryland was clearly overmatched as a No. 6-seed by the eventual champions the Denver Pioneers. The lopsided 10-5 loss was a brutal wakeup call that showed everyone it just wasn't in the cards for the Terrapins. Not to say this loss didn't hurt, but in the end they weren't close by any means.

Now, fast forward a year later. Tillman and Co. battled back from a 4-0 early deficit to take a 8-7 lead by halftime. The Tar Heels actually retook the lead at 10-9, but the Terps battled back again to go up 13-11. Even in overtime, Connor Kelly had a great look that was inches away from sealing the victory in Lincoln Financial.

Moments later, Bernlohr made a once in a lifetime save to keep the season alive.

This game could've gone either way, so let's take a moment to appreciate how far this team's come over the years. Maryland hadn't scored more than seven goals in a title game since 1995. They surpassed that in the first half alone.

No one can deny that the loss is heartbreaking. Those who've watched the Terps all year know how special this group of guys were, especially the senior class.

"For what these seniors have done, I don't think we could ask too much more," Tillman said. "For those guys to be in the championship weekend three out of four a young coach I wasn't sure I was ever going to get here."

They played with swagger, they played for each other, and they were simply fun to watch. End results aside, can anyone honestly say they didn't have fun watching this game?

If this team had come out on Monday and let the Tar Heels steamroll them, the disappointment we all feel would be overshadowed by anger.

Instead, men's lacrosse gave us a 63-minute performance filled with elation, cheer and pride.

And that is no reason to hang their heads low. Their time will come, and until then, we should appreciate the ride.