FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — After a 42-year hiatus, Maryland men’s lacrosse is back atop the college lacrosse world.
Despite a late surge by Ohio State, the Terps held on to win the 2017 NCAA Championship, 9-6, on Memorial Day in Gillette Stadium.
After going winless in nine championship appearances since its last championship in 1975, Maryland finally broke the dry spell and is bringing back the hardware to College Park.
Dan Morris, in his first year starting between the pipes, picked the perfect day to have his best performance of the year, ending the day with 11 saves and just six goals allowed.
Senior faceoff specialist Jon Garino Jr., coming in replacement of starter Austin Henningsen, took on the ninth overall pick in the 2017 Major League Lacrosse Draft in Jake Withers and went 10-for-14 against him. Tim Rotanz led the Terps offensively, leading all scorers with a hat trick and the game’s open-net dagger.
Maryland looked out of sync offensively at the start, but Tim Muller and the defense’s physical effort halted Ohio State from running up an early lead. Colin Chell gave the Buckeyes a 2-1 advantage in the first, but the slim lead could’ve been much greater had Maryland’s defense not stood tall.
The Terps’ offense finally broke the sluggish start late in the first quarter. Down a goal and bereft of any rhythm on offense, the Terps scored four unanswered to flip the pressure back on the Buckeyes. DiMillo, who came into the game with just three goals on the season, led the charge with two of the four to take pressure off Maryland’s usual array of scorers.
Ohio State had a chance to cut into Maryland’s lead before halftime on a man-up possession, but the defense settled into a zone that wouldn’t be broken. Carrying a 5-2 lead into halftime, Maryland’s defense held Ohio State scoreless for more than 20 minutes and counting, including the entirety of the second quarter.
Both offenses managed just one goal each in the third, as Maryland’s defense continued to be the difference-maker. In 35 minutes, the Buckeyes were limited to just one goal. A 6-3 lead entering the fourth, Maryland was just 15 minutes away from its first national championship in 42 years.
Two goals by Maltz and Rambo in the fourth silenced the Ohio State fan section, as even they could sense the likely outcome.
Tre Leclaire attempted a comeback all by himself, scoring and assisting on Ohio State’s fifth and sixth goals, respectively, to cut Maryland’s lead to two with just two minutes left.
But the clock kept ticking down, and Rotanz’s open-net snipe with under a minute to play secured what had eluded the Terps for 42 years.
After letting in two goals in the first 10 minutes, Maryland’s defense allowed just four the remaining 50, tied for the second-lowest scoring total for the Buckeyes all season.
Maryland ended the season 16-3, but more importantly, captured the championship that eluded this program for so long.
Three things to know
1. The drought is finally over. If you ask any of the players if they’d thought about the drought, they all answered “no.” But Maryland’s fans have had this in mind for a long time. No longer.
2. Defense really does win championships. When Maryland’s offense couldn’t muster a goal in the opening minutes, the defense kept Ohio State from creating an early deficit. Maryland forced two scoreless droughts of 25 and 15 minutes, and negated Ohio State’s two best offensive players, Eric Fannell and Tre Leclaire, combining for just one goal behind 11 shots.
3. Maryland’s balanced effort showcased why it’s the best team in the country. Players like Connor Kelly, Matt Rambo and Colin Heacock weren’t the focal points of the win, and that’s what made Maryland the best team in the country all season long. Anyone on Maryland’s roster can shine on any given day, proven by the performances of Morris, DiMillo and Garino. Maryland needed everybody to win the title, and that’s what it got.