The Maryland men's lacrosse team didn't doubt that it belonged in the NCAA tournament. What was in question was whether the Terps had done enough to warrant one of the tournament's eight seeds and a home game in the first round next weekend.
No. 11 Maryland responded with a convincing affirmative, beating Colgate, 18-6, before an announced crowd of 1,949 at Byrd Stadium here Saturday.
The Terps wrapped up the regular season with a 10-3 record and snapped a two-game skid to the Raiders. They will now wait to hear of their postseason fate when the 16-team field bracket is announced Sunday night.
But after falling to Virginia, 13-6, in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament on April 26, securing a victory to get a little momentum into the NCAA tournament was crucial.
"It's definitely important, making it to the tournament and having some home-field advantage for once," redshirt junior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk said. "We haven't had that in the past couple of years. So being able to have home-field advantage and going into the playoffs with the momentum of this game, I think it's definitely going to help us."
Maryland also answered some questions about its offense, producing its highest goal total since a 23-6 season-opening thumping of Mount St. Mary's on Feb. 12. The same unit had scored 18 goals in its previous three contests — two of which resulted in losses to No. 13 Johns Hopkins on April 13 and the Cavaliers.
The Terps sprinted out the gate, scoring the game's first five goals over a span of 9 minutes, 32 seconds and enjoying a 10-3 advantage at halftime. Colgate never got closer than three goals.
Senior attackman Kevin Cooper registered a game-high six points on two goals and four assists, Chanenchuk added four points on three goals and one assist, and sophomore attackman Jay Carlson scored three times.
Cooper, a Crofton native and Archbishop Spalding graduate, had not scored a goal in his last three games, and Carlson, a Cockeysville native and St. Paul's graduate, had scored just once over the same stretch.
"It was great," Cooper said of the offense's outburst. "We've talked about the season. It's been a little rough the last couple weeks because we were in a rut, but I knew it was coming. What better day to have it than on Senior Day? I know that a lot of our older guys stepped up, and we got back to how we're supposed to be playing — unselfish, playing hard, sharing the ball."
Maryland got another solid outing from its defense. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Niko Amato posted a game-best 13 saves, and senior long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt limited Colgate senior and 2012 Tewaaraton Award winner Peter Baum — who lined up as a midfielder rather than his customary attackman position — to a single goal on four shots.
"We had a couple of rough weeks before this," Bernhardt said. "We kind of lost our identity a little bit, and I think that was the biggest thing coming into this week. We just needed to get back to that and I think we did a great job today all around. … I feel like today we kind of hit that groove that we needed to give us a little momentum going into the rest of May."
Sophomore attackman Ryan Walsh led the Raiders with his 36th and 37th goals of the season, but it was not enough for Colgate (8-7) to avoid losing five of its last six contests. It was a tough end for a program that won 13 of 16 regular-season games last year and advanced to the NCAA tournament quarterfinals for the first time in school history
The Terps have a reason to feel good after a rough April and can sit back to see where it lands in the NCAA tournament. But coach John Tillman said he did not concern himself with the team's positioning.
"I just wanted to get a win," he said. "I wanted our seniors to walk off the field happy. … That's really all I've thought about. I know that's the political answer, but that's really all I've thought about. I can't control anything else."