With 10 minutes left in the third frame, Maryland men's lacrosse goalie Logan McNaney effortlessly snagged a straight line deep shot from Duke’s Brennan O’Neill and quickly initiated the clear.
The ball would only grace two other cradles after McNaney’s save; defender Brett Makar and midfielder Roman Puglise, who ended the play with a side sweeping shot in a full sprint.
Following a somewhat sloppy first quarter, the Terps were as clean as they could get. The seven-goal lead was the highest deficit the Blue Devils faced all season — and it would get worse for the second seed as the game progressed.
The Terps’ Memorial Day Weekend aspirations were finally within reach and in the face of an uncharacteristic offensive start, they took heed of the opportunity and executed when necessary. Maryland executed its way to a relatively comfy 14-5 win over No. 2 Duke to earn a spot to play on championship Monday.
“To get here and bring Maryland to this weekend’s really important to our school and our state and our alums,” head coach John Tillman said. “I thought from defense to face offs to goalie play to offense — that’s probably the best 60 minutes we played all year.”
After attacker Jared Bernhardt fired a laser in the bottom corner of the cage to open up the scoring for the afternoon, Maryland looked to start a run. But its offensive sloppiness would take hold early, granting the undefeated team a measly 2-1 lead heading into the second quarter. And in spite of being one of the best offenses in the nation when it came to turnovers, averaging an NCAA-best 12.3 turnovers per contest, the Terps had committed eight by the end of the first frame and ended the half just one turnover short of matching their average.
Bernhardt, however, was far from sloppy in his own right. His two goals on two shots paced the turnover-laden offense in the first quarter and helped extend the Maryland lead midway through the second, rewarding the Terp defense for its promising first-half efforts.
The defense, not as shaky as the attacking side, forced poorly-timed and positioned shots by the talented Blue Devils attack. Aided by the solid goaltending by McNaney, who ended his afternoon with a staggering 81% save percentage, the defense held Duke to a season-low three goals in the first half and an even worse two-goal second half.
The offensive jitters would eventually fade and Maryland’s single goal lead, ballooned to 8-3 at the end of the half, thanks to a timely four-goal run.
“I think we were just kind of easing into the game,” Bernhardt said. “We know what we’re capable of [so we] get the ball moving and such so we’re able to, you know, settle down.”
Bernhardt’s fellow attackmen were adding to the score, whether it was by virtue of his magnetic presence or his ability to find them through assists. The third score of the run was from FOGO specialist Justin Shockey who, after winning his seventh faceoff of the contest, sprinted past the first line of the defense to strike a shot in the bottom left corner.
The Terps looked a lot less disheveled as halftime neared and it spelled disaster for Duke.
Duke’s possessions began to grow more futile as the contest continued and Maryland’s five-goal lead turned to an advantage as high as eight before the end of the third quarter, and the Blue Devils’ offense was forced to switch to a gear it wasn’t privy to.
As time dwindled and Maryland’s lead exploded to double digits, the Blue Devils’ offense grew rushed and, in turn, became increasingly easier to guard as their turnovers mounted and confidence wavered. After snapping into shape late in the second half, the Terps were at the doorstep of the NCAA Championship. They blew through the frame with their midgame seven-goal run to officially put the Blue Devils out of reach.
Three things to know
1. Logan McNaney held it down in the cage. McNaney ended the half with seven saves and a 70% save rate and finished the game with 17 saves and an 81% save rate to help complete one of the most impressive defensive efforts for the Terps.
“I think Logan kind of just showed everyone how good he is,” defenseman Nick Grill said. “He stopped these small shots that he wanted, but again, I think, to his credit, he was saving some that we probably didn’t want. So give him all the credit in the world. We love playing for him and we trust [him] wholeheartedly behind us.”
2. Jared Bernhardt took over. After finding the back of the net with his first three shots, Bernhardt began to distribute and get his teammates involved with two assists. He was exceptionally efficient when the Terps, as a team were not. But as the offense improved he took a backseat role and stood aside as midfielder/attacker Anthony DeMaio and attacker Logan Wisnauskas added to Maryland’s game-breaking run. The Tewaaraton favorite ended with five goals and two assists and was named the player of the game.
3. Faceoff dominance. Shockey, aside from Bernhardt, was one of the main consistent factors that helped with Maryland’s success in the first half. His 9-13 start was crucial in disallowing a comeback effort for Duke and vitalizing the end of half run. He ended with an 11-21 faceoff stat line and was the only FOGO between both sides with more than 10 wins.
“I thought Justin Shockey really gave us just great minutes today,” Tillman said “[He] gets a goal, but more importantly, it just felt like we got possessions in that second quarter. And that was huge for us. And again, when you get one from your faceoff guy that’s a big energy boost.”