“Be the Best.”
That’s what the Maryland men’s lacrosse team’s slogan has been the past few seasons. On Monday, the Terps finally became the best.
Maryland ended a 42-year title drought many thought cursed to push past Ohio State 9-6 to win the NCAA National Championship. The Terps’ triumph earned the school its third title in program history and it’s first since 1975.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said. “We had our opportunity and we’re not going to runaway and hide from it. We realized it’s been a long time and we embraced that and drew strength from it.”
This national championship win means the end of talk of droughts in College Park and that means a lot to many people, including past coaches and alumnus, involved in the Maryland lacrosse program.
“Obviously, when you win a championship, no one has to talk about it anymore,” Tillman said. “For them to not have to worry about it anymore means a lot to a lot of different people.”
Maryland played in close games all season to help them prepare for what they’ll see in the tournament and in the championship, when it was a two-goal game with two minutes left, the Terps felt like they were ready for whatever was about to happen.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” senior defensive midfielder Nick Manis said. “But when we were running back out there with two minutes left and we had to make a stop we were just smiling at each other because this is where we have been and this is where we want to be.”
When senior attackman Colin Heacock came in, he didn’t know what to expect from the Final Four his freshman year. Now, having been to three straight national title games, he wanted to help his younger teammates prepare for this weekend.
“Coming in here as freshmen, a lot of those older guys helped us and made us comfortable,” Heacock said. “It felt great just to finish it and share that moment with them and just for all the fans out there.”
Tim Muller was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and that was shown in the way he locked down Tre Leclaire today, Connor Cannizzaro in the semifinal, and Connor Fields in the quarterfinal. He was able to hold Leclaire to one goal on four shots, Cannizzaro to one goal on seven shots and Fields to three goals and one assist.
Muller has been in charge of stopping the other team’s best player all season and locking down Leclaire today was the key to slowing down Ohio State. Muller and the Terps also held Ohio State to two scoring droughts longer than 15 minutes today.
“We just stuck to our regular, fundamental Maryland defense,” Muller said. “We didn’t try to do anything we don’t normally try to do and Jon [Garino] and Austin [Henningsen] winning faceoffs allowed us to stay fresh.”
Rambo, Maryland’s all-time leading scorer, was struggling all day and only netted one goal on 11 shots. His lone goal of the day came when he spun past first team All-American defenseman Ben Randall to put Maryland up 8-3 with 10:38 left in the game.
With Rambo struggling against Randall today, it was players like Dylan Maltz helped lead the Terps to their first title in over four decades. Maltz recorded two goals and one assist that led to an Adam DiMillo goal.
“Dylan Maltz quietly had a big game for us today,” Tillman said. “Because they put a short stick on him we were able to pick, but also dodge from behind the goal and we were successful doing that early so we kept doing it.”
During the end of their tournament run, Maryland had to face three of the nation’s top three faceoff specialists in Trevor Baptiste, T.D. Ierlan and Jake Withers and Jon Garino stepped up against all three of them. He went 30 of 44 against those three and that is exactly what Tillman wanted to see in the faceoff circle.
“I don’t think we’re here without Chris [Mattes],” Tillman said of the Terps’ volunteer coach who leads the faceoff specialists. “He knows so much more and he can see things we can’t. They deserve a lot of the credit today.”
Now Tillman’s team gets to rest on the top of the mountain, but that doesn’t mean he’s resting just yet.
“We’ll definitely get after the recruiting soon,” Tillman said. “We’re a little behind with that but we’ll be fine.”
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