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Celebrating Maryland’s first men’s lacrosse championship in 42 years

It was an emotional day, decades in the making.

2017 NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

The clock turned to all zeros, and just like that, the wait was over. The Maryland Terrapins were national champions once again.

The Terps’ reaction perfectly captured the emotion of the entire fanbase. There’s no “correct” way to celebrate, and the Terps pretty much run the gamut here.

As most of the rest of the squad storms the field, Jon Garino Jr. (No. 12) rocks the “I can’t believe what just happened” crouch. Freshman midfielder Jack Wilson (No. 35) pulls the old “human airplane” celebration before hopping on top of the classic dog pile.

The celebration was perfectly imperfect, and that’s exactly how they’re supposed to be.

From my living room, hundreds of miles away, I went on the emotional roller coaster that is watching a Maryland sports game. There was cheering, there was cursing, there was that time I accidentally kicked my coffee table and maybe broke a toe, and there were probably a lot of really awkward facial expressions. But at the end, there were only smiles and plenty of fist pumps.

I waited 20 years, three months and 20 days to see my favorite team win that trophy. I’ve been a Maryland fan all my life. My parents met in College Park in the 1980s. Aunts, uncles and cousins have all made their way through town over the last 30 years. My cousin and I are students now. We’ve seen Maryland win several championships, but never this one. There were plenty of chances—I don’t have to remind you of the nine runner-up finishes Maryland has had in those 42 years—but the Terps never sealed the deal.

Lacrosse is a bigger deal in Maryland than other places. It’s part of the culture. It’s ingrained into kids’ minds at a young age. It’s because of things like the lacrosse camp run by Maryland lacrosse players I went to in Ocean City when I was 11. It’s because, year after year, Maryland is ranked near—or at—the top of the polls.

As I’ve grown older and paid more attention to all Maryland sports as a student, I’ve come to appreciate the year-in, year-out dominance of our lacrosse program. Even without the national titles, Maryland has been one of the best programs in the country for as long as I can remember. But with the dominance, and lack of titles to show for it, came doubt. Would we ever win? Ever the optimist, I knew it would happen.

I knew it would happen in 2011, with freshman phenom Niko Amato in the cage and Grant Catalino and company running the attack. I knew it would happen in 2012, with Amato a year older and Joe Cummings, Drew Snider and Jesse Bernhardt having great tournaments. I knew it would happen last year, with senior Kyle Bernlohr in the crease—especially when he made that save, you know, that save—and the three-headed monster of Matt Rambo, Colin Heacock and Dylan Maltz coming into their own as upperclassmen. I was wrong every time. The doubt grew, but I still knew it would happen.

This year had to be the year.

The last year of the Rambo-Heacock-Maltz line, an incredible defense and an offense that wouldn’t stall in the biggest moments of the biggest games. It had to be the year.

And even though Maryland led for most of the game, I sat through two hours and 15 minutes of pure torture. Rambo, Heacock and Maltz combined for only three goals, but the defense was as good as ever. The Terps scooped 33 ground balls. Adam DiMillo scored twice after only scoring three goals all season. Dan Morris came up with clutch saves when needed. It was a true team effort.

It wasn’t easy, but the Maryland way is never easy. In the end, the demons have been exorcised. The wait is over. After 42 years, the trophy is ours yet again.

The heart’s got four chambers. Mine just happen to be filled with red, white, black and gold blood. From the bottom of that heart, I’m thankful I got to see the end of the drought and watch the Terrapins hoist that trophy at long last.