With the season on the line, Maryland men’s lacrosse couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to finish.
With possession in overtime, the nation’s second-best offense wasted no time to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament Final Four. After winning their 10th faceoff of the afternoon, the Terps offense quickly subbed out their defenders and began to push forward towards the goal.
As soon as he crossed the sideline, midfielder Anthony DeMaio took possession and immediately initiated a give-and-go play with attacker Logan Wisnauskas, who dished right back it to his midfielder in stride. Without wasting a step, DeMaio sent the ball right over the head of 6-foot-3 goalie Liam Entenmann.
As DeMaio’s shot graced the back of the net, he yanked off his helmet and rushed to the far-side corner of the field in celebration where his teammates joined him. After a two year long hiatus, the Terps had yet again earned a bid to play on championship weekend.
“Those guys on the sideline are awesome,” DeMaio said. “I think that’s just something that this team prides itself on. We all believe in each other, we have faith in each other in the whole game. Whether it was from the coaches, the training staff, all the guys on the sidelines — everyone had belief, everyone believed in each other.”
In a heavily contested quarterfinal battle, the Terps weathered the storm and snuck past Notre Dame in overtime, 14-13, to advance to championship weekend for the 27th time in program history.
And although the Maryland had the last goal, the Irish struck first with a shot straight past goalie Logan McNaney, who had good positioning but a delayed reaction. It was one of the few opportunities Notre Dame managed to sustain in the first quarter and it was the first of the contest. After the straight line score by midfielder Wheaton Jackoboice, the Irish began to look like the majority of Maryland’s hapless challengers of the Big Ten.
As it typically goes, the Terps provided a lopsided response to an initial opening statement by the opposition. First, a buzzer-beating fadeaway score from attacker Griffin Brown. Then, a faceoff win granted a new possession for Maryland that was used masterfully by attacker Jared Bernhardt, who found the back of the net with a dodge from X.
Up 3-1, the Terps used the momentum to mark up two more scores before the frame ended, completing their most impressive opening quarter performance of the season. But followed it up with their worst quarter of the season.
Notre Dame responded when they began winning faceoffs of their own in the following quarter. When the Terps defense faced its first true look at Notre Dame’s offense, they struggled tremendously. And after a rough penalty committed by midfielder Roman Puglise, the Irish finally had the opening to execute in the second frame.
Though not as efficient as Maryland with four turnovers, Notre Dame was resoundingly effective in the second quarter. While keeping the ball far away from Maryland’s scorers with five straight faceoff wins, their balanced offense picked apart the Terps increasingly exhausted defense with five unanswered goals.
Down 6-5, Bernhardt, of course, was the man to equalize once more, finishing with a sweeping shot placed between the knees of Entenmann. When he scored again after, Maryland’s first defensive stand of the quarter, the Irish, as poised and confident as they were, answered quickly to tie the contest heading into halftime.
In a quarter where Maryland was largely dead in the water, Bernhardt stemmed Notre Dame’s domination the best he could.
And in spite of his tidy work immediately at the second half’s open, scoring his fifth goal and second between-the-legs finish of the contest in the first minute, Irish offensive stampede only strengthened as more faceoffs were lost. Whether it was faceoff specialists Justin Shockey or Luke Wierman, the No. 6 home team battled relentlessly at the X with two different athletes, who both were winning at a rate above 70% during the third frame.
“[Notre Dame’s faceoff specialists] did a really good job of, you know, putting us in a tough spot,” head coach John Tillman said. “We just couldn’t get the ball out at times and get into good spot or we couldn’t pick it up.”
It was that success by Notre Dame that granted the Irish their first two-goal lead of the game. A lead that held for the majority of the third quarter. And it eventually ballooned to three as the home side continued to pour in more faceoff wins.
But the Irish, prone to poor finishing down the stretch, began to lose steam as the fourth quarter ticked away. And the Terps took advantage.
When Notre Dame turned it over, following a shot clock violation, the Terps pounced on the opportunity and scored, then they scored one more time after a faceoff win by Wierman and finished the three-goal run with a final finish from attacker Daniel Maltz.
Maltz’s dunk at the crease evened things up one more time and a subsequent score from Wisnauskas gave Maryland its second lead of the half. Taking a pass from Maltz, Wisnauskas shoveled a deep shot into the top corner of the cage. But with another Notre Dame score less than three minutes after, the Terps comeback run was quickly halted.
With the score tied 13-13, the stalemate between the two sides carried on until the end of regulation.
With four minutes on the clock for overtime, Wierman came up with the ball when it mattered most despite struggling with the faceoffs all day. After he picked up the ground ball, the Terps moved up the field and got it to DeMaio who took the shot just 40 seconds into overtime to seal the deal for the Terps as they erupted into cheers and stormed the field.
“We love our players so much,” Tillman said. “And we know the sacrifices they made so to see them happy and joyous and know that they have another week together it’s worth his weight in gold. And you’re so just so thankful for it.”
Three things to know
1. Maryland men’s lacrosse advances to the Final Four for the 27th time in program history. Under Tillman, the Terps have advanced to the semifinals seven times. The last time they advanced was in 2018 where they faced Duke, the same matchup that will take place on Saturday, May 29.
“This was a game I just felt like neither team should have lost,” Tillman said. “[I have] so much respect for their program those kids played so hard, but to have another week together, just so thankful for that and again just so proud of our guys.”
2. It was an offensive masterclass. Neither defense produced a performance of note Sunday afternoon. Aside from a second-half surge from Entenmann, Notre Dame and Maryland struggled on defense. The offenses meanwhile provided viewers with a flurry of shots and finishes that made for an entertaining shootout.
3. Notre Dame dominated the faceoff X. The Irish proved to be much more effective at the X than Vermont was expected to be in the opening round. They were also especially effective in taking advantage of the possessions. Most notably, in the second quarter when they won 8 of their 12 battles at the X and outscored the Terps 6-2. They continued in the third and fourth quarters to control the faceoffs and finished the game winning 20 of 30 faceoffs.