When the clock finally hit zero, the Maryland sideline stormed Logan McNaney, dogpiling the Terps keeper in celebration. Sticks, gloves and helmets flew upward as joy filled the air.
The job was finished.
Carried by a dynamic performance from McNaney, who chalked up 17 saves in the game, No. 1 Maryland men’s lacrosse officially claimed its spot at the top, defeating No. 7 Cornell on Monday to become national champions, 9-7.
“Shoutout to the Cornell lacrosse program, by far the hardest game we had all year,” coach John Tillman said. “In terms of our guys, just so happy for them. This team, probably the best word to describe them is selfless. So many guys that were willing to do whatever to kind of get us a chance to get back here with no guarantee. Proud of all of them, I love them, and just happy for our state, our school, our program and our alums.”
The Terps looked as if they might run away with the game before Cornell made one last stand. Leading 9-2 with McNaney holding the Big Red scoreless for long stretches at a time, Maryland entered the final 15 minutes with the victory in sight until Cornell found its rhythm for the first time all game.
Michael Long opened the fourth quarter scoring, trimming the Cornell deficit to five, and six minutes later Hugh Kelleher brought the Big Red within four.
The Big Red’s run didn’t end there. Less than a minute later, Cornell turned a turnover into a goal, pushing the ball quickly and setting up Spencer Wirtheim to trim the Maryland lead by one more.
While Cornell attempted the comeback, Maryland’s offense went silent. Struggling to even get the ball into the offensive half, the Terps hung on for dear life as the lead started to evaporate. The Terps were held scoreless the final 26:55 of the contest. McNaney’s play kept hope alive, and ultimately closed out any chance of an upset for the Big Red.
John Piatelli scored with 35.3 to play to trim the lead to two, but a Luke Wierman faceoff win would allow Maryland to run out the game.
“We just weren’t as good as we had been,” Tillman said. “It could have been fatigue, but a lot of that you just have to give to Cornell.”
Through the first three quarters, the Terps displayed the dominance that helped them steamroll their way back to championship weekend. Returning to the same field where their undefeated title hopes fell short a season ago, the Terps flipped the script the second time around.
After C.J. Kirst snuck a goal past McNaney to open the scoring and put Cornell ahead, the Terps found themselves trailing, something they’ve done sparingly this season.
When Maryland’s next offensive possession rolled around, Eric Malever evened things up. Cutting from behind the goal, Malever caught a quick pass from Jack Brennan and wrapped around the right side of the cage, releasing a dart that Chayse Ierlan couldn’t stop.
Anthony DeMaio followed with another postseason hat trick — he scored on three straight Maryland possessions — edging the Terps ahead 4-1 as the first quarter came to a close.
“I think it was just settling down, getting into a rhythm of the game,” DeMaio said. “The second half we obviously struggled, but just sticking together the whole time.”
Maryland continued to build on its lead In the second quarter. Two minutes into the second frame, Owen Prybylski picked the perfect time for his first goal of the season, giving it up and getting it right back on the fastbreak before unloading a shot with his long pole right in the face of Ierlan.
Kirst did what he could to stem the tide for Cornell, adding his second goal of the game. But Maryland continued to produce at the other end. Withstanding plenty of hard checks and chippy play from the Big Red defense, DeMaio and Logan Wisnauskas both converted Kyle Long passes into goals, jumping out to a five-goal advantage.
McNaney continued his stellar play from Saturday night, collecting 10 of his 17 total saves in the first half, backing up a Terps defense that flew around the field.
“I think I try to go into every game with the same mentality, try not to get too riled up, stay calm,” McNaney said. “See ball, save ball.”
At the half, Maryland led 7-2.
The Terps began the second half the same way as they ended the first, with Wisnauskas breaking through with his second goal of the game. Wisnauskas got free on the right side and ripped a low-to-high scorcher past Ierlan that ended up in the back of the net.
Jonathan Donville, who played the first three seasons of college lacrosse for Cornell, added the next score for the Terps. He squeaked his way to the mouth of the goal, catching and converting on the doorstep.
Aiden Blake became the second player to score for the Big Red in the game, going uncovered through Maryland’s defense and scoring in the face of McNaney.
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Maryland had grabbed firm control of the game, with just 15 minutes standing in the way of becoming champions.
Cornell put forth its best effort to complete the comeback and pull off the upset, but fell just short of upending the nation’s top team.
When the time finally wound and the celebration began, the Terps displayed a passion and excitement that has eluded them at times this season.
With the weight of correcting last year’s heartbreak serving as an unspoken chip on its players’ shoulders from the start of the season, Maryland barreled through opponent after opponent. When the time came to play for a title, the Terps made sure to leave no doubt.
One of the most dominant seasons the sport of college lacrosse has ever seen, Maryland remained focused on a common goal, and as a result, secured the right to be called champions.
“Growing up, I’m sure I can speak for all the guys on the team, even the coaches, going to some of the Final Four tournaments, watching on TV, like reenacting scoring a game winning goal for the national championship… I do now play goalie but just growing up and seeing all the other teams do what they did and going out there and do it ourselves is pretty special,” McNaney said.
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