Vermont defensive coordinator Jake Bernhardt — who played at Maryland from 2009-13 with his brother and current Maryland defensive coordinator Jesse — schemed a defensive set that quieted the Terps’ usually loud offense for the first quarter of play.
The Catamounts frustrated Maryland on the offensive end, forcing five turnovers and sealing up the middle of the field. For a moment, it looked like the Terps were in for a fight in their first NCAA tournament game of 2022. However, the second quarter showed why Maryland is the top seed in this year’s field.
Graduate midfielder Jonathan Donville, sophomore attacker Jack Koras and fifth-year midfielder Anthony DeMaio all scored before five minutes had elapsed in the period. Then, sophomore defenseman Ajax Zappitello caught a pass from graduate attacker Keegan Khan and fired a shot low that beat Vermont graduate goalie Ryan Cornell, notching the first goal of his career.
The goals kept coming for Maryland, with fifth-year attacker Logan Wisnauskas and sophomore attacker Owen Murphy scoring their second goals of the game and Khan adding two of his own, bringing Maryland’s lead to 11-1 and putting an insurmountable distance between the Terps and Catamounts.
“I give Vermont credit,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said. “Their length, I think, caused some problems early, and then we got used to it and our guys did a great job with it.”
From there, Maryland cruised to a 21-5 victory over Vermont in College Park on Sunday afternoon, advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals for the eighth consecutive season.
“Amazing effort by them today, certainly the best Maryland team that I’ve seen,” Vermont head coach Chris Feifs said, who played in College Park from 2004-07.
The Terps will play Virginia on May 22 in the quarterfinals, a rematch of last year’s national championship game that Virginia won by one goal.
“They’re a great team. A lot of people forgot how good they actually are,” Maryland senior defenseman Matt Rahill said of Virginia. “[We] definitely can’t take them lightly. We’re gonna need another really good week of practice.”
At first, it looked like Maryland had Vermont’s zone defense figured out on Sunday. The Terps scored their usual first-minute goal, an unassisted tally from Wisnauskas just 45 seconds in. Sophomore attacker Eric Malever added an unassisted goal of his own one minute later. After a quick response from Vermont graduate attacker Liam Limoges that made it 2-1, Maryland doubled its lead following a goal by Murphy.
Murphy’s goal, however, would be the last either team scored for nearly 11 minutes. The Terps went on a 9-0 run, though, running away from the Catamounts with a dominant flurry of goals before Vermont junior attacker James Basile ended their 9-0 run.
Khan’s goal during the run was a nifty behind-the-back goal, his third of the sort this season.
“He scored against High Point in the first game of the year [with a] behind-the-back [shot] and he said ‘I’ve never done that before,’” Donville said of Khan. “At this point I just assume he’s lying because he’s got three of them now.”
With just 1:42 left until halftime, Koras put the exclamation on a nine-goal second quarter for the Terps, giving them a 13-2 advantage after the first half of play.
The third quarter was more of the same, with Maryland outscoring Vermont by five. DeMaio and Wisnauskas scored two goals apiece, and Murphy put a hat trick to his name with a strike that whizzed past Cornell with five minutes left in the quarter. Junior midfielder Jack Brennan also sent a shot into the top corner of the goal, and the Terps led 18-3 with one quarter left to play.
Junior faceoff specialist Luke Wierman’s day ended after three quarters, but his presence was felt with a commanding 84.2% faceoff winning percentage on the day.
“Weirman is the best faceoff guy I’ve ever seen out of Maryland,” Feifs said. “Wierman right now is at a different level. He’s hearing the whistle and he’s winning every possession.”
Vermont scored the fourth quarter’s first two goals, but Maryland scored the game’s last three. Junior attacker Ryan Siracusa scored the first goal of his career, and sophomore attacker Daniel Kelly as well as sophomore midfielder Gabe Goforth solidified the Terps’ 21-5 victory.
“We have really unselfish guys,” Tillman said of his team. “The key to being successful [is] that guys need to trust that if they give [the ball] up, they’re getting it back.”
Three things to know
1. Defense, defense and more defense. Maryland’s defense was incredible on Sunday, holding Vermont to only five goals all game long. Junior goalie Logan McNaney had 11 saves and only allowed three goals. Graduate goalie Drew Morris also made six saves in the fourth quarter. Maryland’s defense forced 12 turnovers overall and consistently sealed off passing lanes, thwarting almost every opportunity Vermont had.
“Their defense is really stout and their goalie saves everything you put on cage,” Feifs said.
2. It was Maryland’s largest margin of victory in a tournament game. Previously, Maryland’s largest margin of victory in an NCAA Tournament game was 13 goals, which came in an 18-5 win over Washington & Lee in 1973. Sunday’s win was also its first 20-goal performance in the NCAA tournament since a 1976 semifinal win over Navy. The last time that an NCAA tournament game was decided by at least 15 goals was in 2008, when Syracuse beat Canisius, 20-3.
3. Maryland has now made eight straight quarterfinals. The last time the Terps didn’t advance out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament was 2013. Since then, Maryland has qualified for eight consecutive NCAA quarterfinals and six Final Fours. Maryland and Virginia met in the quarterfinals most recently in 2019 in Hempstead, New York, an overtime victory for the Cavaliers. Most Terps fans remember that game by a Virginia goal that ricocheted off the post but was awarded to the Cavaliers to tie the contest in the fourth quarter.