HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — The Maryland men's lacrosse team beat Bryant at its own game.
Taking advantage of junior faceoff specialist Charlie Raffa's dominance and an opportunistic offense, the seventh-seeded Terps scored the first four goals and never looked back as they cruised to a 16-8 thumping of Bryant in their NCAA tournament quarterfinal Saturday.
A stadium-record, sellout crowd of 13,447 at Hofstra's James M. Shuart Stadium watched Maryland (13-3) advance to its third Final Four berth in the past four years and 22nd overall. The Terps will meet sixth-seeded Notre Dame (11-5) in a semifinal Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium. The Fighting Irish beat Albany (12-6), 14-13, in overtime of the doubleheader's second game.
Maryland earned a spot thanks to an overpowering first quarter. In a battle of two of the top faceoff specialists in Division I, Raffa won nine of 10 over Bulldogs junior Kevin Massa, and the offense turned those possessions into seven goals on 11 shots en route to a 7-2 lead.
"We knew they were a dangerous team," Tillman said. "We feel very fortunate. … I thought we played very smart in the beginning."
Raffa won 14 of his 20 faceoffs and collected five ground balls before getting pulled in the third quarter after tweaking a bothersome right knee. He got considerable help from wing players Michael Ehrhardt (five ground balls) and Brian Cooper (five ground balls).
"With the three of us in the middle of the field, I'm very confident going into games," said Raffa, who has won 67.8 percent of his draws overall and picked up a team-best 108 ground balls. "So I didn't feel any pressure, and I didn't use it as motivation. I just saw it as having an opportunity to compete."
The Terps scored the game's first four goals in a span of 2 minutes, 51 seconds. They never trailed, and the eight-goal margin of victory was the program's largest in the NCAA tournament since May 13, 2006, when Maryland routed Denver, 16-8, in the first round.
"Watching their film, they're a really good team at ground balls and faceoffs, and obviously they have a pretty good goalie," said senior Mike Chanenchuk, who shifted from attack to midfield and led all scorers with nine points on five goals and four assists. "So we just tried to play our game, and that's Maryland lacrosse — ground balls and scoring goals. We were able to get a few on [Bryant sophomore goalkeeper Gunnar Waldt] early, and I think that really helped us."
In addition to Chanenchuk, Maryland got three goals and two assists from freshman Connor Cannizzaro and three goals apiece from junior attackman Jay Carlson (St. Paul's) and junior midfielder Joe LoCascio.
The defense also got into the act. Senior goalkeeper Niko Amato (six saves) outdueled Waldt, a St. Paul's graduate, was pulled in the fourth quarter after surrendering 15 goals and making seven saves.
Freshman attackman Tucker James, who scored a career-high four goals and finished with six points in the Bulldogs' 10-9 upset of second-seeded Syracuse on Sunday, was limited to just one goal by junior defenseman Goran Murray. Senior attackman Dan Sipperly also scored just once while being marked by junior defenseman Casey Ikeda.
Senior midfielder Colin Dunster paced Bryant with five points on four goals and one assist, but the Bulldogs could not extend their magical run to what would have been the program's first final-four appearance.
"They did to us in the first quarter which we've done to a lot of people all year," coach Mike Pressler said. "The key matchups were the play in the goal and at the faceoff X, and they dominated those two matchups in the first quarter, and down 7-2 against that team made it an uphill battle. Credit goes to Maryland. They were on their game today, and they were a handful in so many ways."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun