In the Terps' toughest task of the season, Maryland men's lacrosse went to battle with the Brown Bears in the NCAA semifinals and emerged victorious in a 15-14 heart attack-inducing overtime victory.
Junior Matt Rambo recorded a career-high five assists, and was an unselfish catalyst unfazed by the spotlight. His final assist of the day went right to Colin Heacock, who scored the game-winner from point-blank range.
Goalkeeper Kyle Bernlohr and the defense looked groggy the entire first half, but locked it down and allowed only six second-half goals. With the game on the line, the defense swarmed the Browns and stood tall in overtime.
Will Gural won the opening faceoff and somehow managed to streak downfield in front of Bernlohr for an uncontested shot. He went low, but so did Bernlohr, who set the tone early with the game-starting electrifying save.
Seconds later, Rambo found Heacock on the doorstep to kick off a five-minute scoring rampage by Maryland. A rare goal by defensive middie Isaiah Davis-Allen, a snipe from Dylan Maltz and a hard-nosed solo effort by Rambo gave the Terps an early 4-1 lead.
But Brown's chaotic offense came alive, going on a demoralizing 5-1 scoring run to take a 7-5 lead in the second quarter. The Terps went through a scoring drought reminiscent of their earlier season games, but they proved their top-seed billing and battled back. Tim Rotanz notched a tough-angled shot by himself, and senior Henry West put some heat on a corner snipe from long range.
Still trailing 8-7, defensive stalwart Matt Dunn recorded his first goal of his entire career on this crazy play:
With Heacock's second goal of the half, Maryland was now in the driver's seat en route to a second consecutive title appearance.
The second half came to a crawl, but the Terps' capitalized on Brown's achilles heel: turnovers. Seven third-quarter turnovers led to numerous fast breaks, which Maltz was able to capitalize on twice to earn his hat trick. Even freshman Louis Dubick got in on the action, staring down goalkeeper Jack Kelly and bouncing a shot in on an extra-man opportunity.
The Bears made some noise late in the fourth quarter, eliminating the lead altogether to make this game one the Terps would have to win in overtime.
On their first offensive possession in extra time, Rambo fed Heacock right in front of the cage and sent the Terps to the national title game.
Three Things to Know
1. Offensive depth didn't disappoint
The Terps got help from everyone. Maryland's first eight goals came from eight different scorers, including the ridiculous Dunn goal. The offense revolved around Rambo and Heacock when it absolutely needed to, but the Terps displayed their well balanced offense in front of a crowd of over 33-thousand. The attack took smart shots, role players weren't afraid to unleash and the Terps' transition offense jelled all game.
2. Maryland's defense contained the best offense in the country
Every year, Tillman's defensive units are what lead the Terps into championship weekend. With a revitalized offense, analysts and the media love looking at what Maryland brings to the scoring column. But containing the best offense in the country is no easy task, and they did just that against a team that averages 17 goals per game.
3. This could've been the championship game, and no one would've complained
Maryland and Brown gave the fans at Lincoln Financial their money's worth. North Carolina dominated Loyola Maryland 18-13, and lacrosse fans everywhere were looking for some excitement. With a 14-10 advantage quickly becoming 14-14 thanks to a late surge by Brown, everyone in attendance was on the edge of their seats. The fans got a couple moments of free lacrosse, and the Terps walked away knowing they'd be coming back Monday afternoon.