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Inside Maryland men’s lacrosse’s season-ending collapse vs. Virginia

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The Terps blew a five-goal lead and saw their season end in overtime.

Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. Bucknell Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — Despite holding a five-goal lead with under 10 minutes to go in regulation and a four-goal advantage with under four minutes remaining, Maryland men’s lacrosse’s season is over with a loss to Virginia in the NCAA quarterfinals.

That 12-7 lead at the 10:38 mark of the fourth quarter was buoyed by an incredible five-goal run. After the Cavaliers tied the score at seven goals apiece with 6:42 left in the third quarter, Maryland dominated possession over the next 10 minutes thanks to stout defensive play, forcing turnovers to give the offense multiple possessions. That led to four straight goals—making it five unanswered—including two by Anthony DeMaio, who scored four on the day.

But the Terrapins took their foot off the pedal. As successful as the offense was to nearly put the game away by being aggressive, the gameplan on that end of the field shifted. After gaining possession with a 12-8 lead and less than five minutes remaining, the Terps didn’t go to the net. Instead, they passed around for 80 seconds, culminating with midfielder Kyle Long dumping the ball for a shot-clock violation.

The plan was clear—just run the clock out. That didn’t work.

Virginia got a clear immediately, and the snowball began to take shape. Ian Laviano missed the net on a shot, but 11 seconds later, Ryan Conrad scored his second goal of the game to make the score 12-9. Maryland lost the next faceoff, and 20 seconds later, Laviano found the net to cut the deficit to two goals.

“All of a sudden, it just unleashed,” Virginia head coach Lars Tiffany said after the game. “The dam was broken, and these men made plays.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, the Terps were called for an unnecessary roughness penalty. That gave Virginia a man-up advantage. The Cavaliers won the ensuing faceoff and called timeout 13 seconds later. Just 11 seconds out of the break, Conrad took advantage of the extra man to cut the score to 12-11.

At this point, an avalanche was closing in on Maryland. The Terrapins got too conservative, and instead of holding a five-goal advantage, they now had just one leg up on the No. 3-seeded Cavaliers.

Virginia won the next faceoff, and while Maryland’s Alex Smith picked up a Cavaliers turnover, the Terps couldn’t get a clear. After Thomas O’Connell turned the ball over himself, the game was tied 22 seconds later on a Michael Kraus rocket.

That rip deflected all the way back to midfield, and both teams raced to corral the rebound. In real time, it seemed as though the shot hit the crossbar. There is no replay review in lacrosse, but after the televisions showed instant replays, it was clear that the ball hit the crossbar. The laws of physics would dictate that the only way the ball could ricochet 40 yards away from the goal would be if it hit a hard, solid surface—like the metal that surrounds the net, not the nylon of which it is made—but alas, the goal tied the game with 1:14 to go in regulation.

“I did ask them (the refs),” Maryland head coach John Tillman said. “I go, ‘Listen, we’re 100 percent sure that went in?’ And they were like, ‘Listen, if we weren’t convinced, we wouldn’t make that call.’ I’m not sure I can ask much more than that. We had a very good group, and those guys are good at their jobs. I trust that they’re going to make the best decision possible.”

As if there was any doubt, the Cavaliers won the faceoff in overtime—their seventh consecutive faceoff win. Virginia won 19 of 28 faceoffs as a team, and Petey LaSalla won 16 of his 24 chances.

“Pete LaSalla, what a heroic effort,” Tiffany said. “For a first-year, for him to do that against a team that is notoriously very good at the faceoff X. He just kept giving us those possessions so we could make that comeback win happen.”

After spending 45 seconds maneuvering the attack into the spot it wanted, Virginia took its first lead of the entire game. Matt Moore ripped a shot past Danny Dolan to send the Cavaliers to the Final Four next weekend.

For the first 50 minutes of regulation, the Terrapins were resilient at every turn. The Cavaliers tied the game three separate times—at three, six and seven—but each time the score drew even, the unseeded Terps retook the lead just over a minute later. Twice, the person to step up was Jared Bernhardt, who eclipsed the 50-goal mark on the season with four goals Saturday.

All season long, it seemed that this Terrapins team underachieved. Once ranked No. 2 in the nation, they were the last team in the NCAA Tournament field. It took a miracle to even get to Long Island, as they tied the game against Towson with 3.7 seconds remaining in regulation and found a way to sneak by in overtime. But overtime games are usually a coin flip, and while the Terps won last week, they weren’t able to this time around.

“Overall, you’re trying to win the games, but a big part of it is how we approach it—how we represent the program, the tradition that we have,” Tillman said. “We talk about playing like Terps all the time, leaving it all out there. I thought our kids were just relentless today, played with so much heart, gave all they could.”