A sore ankle did not prevent Mike Chanenchuk from delivering for the Maryland men's lacrosse team.
The senior attackman's goal with two seconds left in the fourth quarter propelled the seventh-seeded Terps to an 8-7 win over Cornell in an NCAA tournament first-round game at Byrd Stadium on Saturday.
That score gave Maryland its first lead of the game and was enough to help the team advance to a quarterfinal at Hofstra on Saturday; it will face the winner of Sunday night's first-round contest between Bryant and second-seeded Syracuse.
The Terps will make their sixth quarterfinal appearance in seven years, and they have Chanenchuk to thank.
After Maryland called timeout with nine seconds left in regulation, sophomore midfielder Henry West, a Cornell transfer, sprinted down the right alley before skipping a pass to Chanenchuk standing at the left wing. Chanenchuk sidearmed the ball past freshman goalkeeper Christian Knight to bring many of the announced 2,210 to their feet.
“For a goalie, I know that Niko would say that it's probably most difficult when the ball's swinging all the way across,” said Chanenchuk, who paced the team with two goals and two assists despite playing on an ankle that he injured in a loss to Notre Dame on April 25. “So I just thought if I could catch it and get it off quick, I was going to have the advantage on the goalie. I guess I got a little lucky.”
Knight (Boys' Latin), who finished with a game-high 13 saves, agreed, saying: “That long skip across the middle is hard to defend. Of course, they get it to their top guy, and he buries a nice shot.”
Chanenchuk's play was set up during a timeout with nine seconds left. Noticing that the Big Red was not preventing dodges down the alleys, the coaches called for West to attack the right lane and then make a decision depending on how the defense reacted.
“Henry's a really good dodger, and if they didn't slide to him, he's going to have a shot,” coach John Tillman said. “We just ran a simple exchange on the backside, and if they didn't slide, then Henry was going to shoot it. If they did, we were going to look for an inside look or a through look or a follow, or bang it to X and look inside as well. So we had some options, but we thought we had good people in good spots.”
While Cornell had a 5-1 lead at the half, the second half belonged to the Terps. They took 24 shots to the Big Red's eight, collected 17 ground balls to Cornell's 10, and won eight faceoffs to the Big Red's two.
As Maryland won the time-of-possession battle, the Big Red had fewer opportunities, and junior attackman Matt Donovan, who led the team with four points on three goals and one assist, committed two turnovers in the fourth quarter. Terps senior goalie Niko Amato (eight saves) said it was apparent that limited chances began to weigh on the Cornell offensive players.
“They had a couple short possessions, and I think the tide started to change, and they started to get frustrated at each other,” Amato said. “You could see out on the field that the attack was starting to grip their sticks and bicker at each other about slowing it down. They were trying to find a balance of slowing it down and still attacking the goal.”
With the Big Red leading 6-4 after three quarters, the teams traded goals before the Terps scored twice in a span of 65 seconds to tie the score at 7. Freshman attackman Matt Rambo scored his third goal of the game when he collected an errant shot by junior attackman Jay Carlson (St. Paul's), curled around the right post, and slid the ball past Knight with 9:17 remaining.
Then freshman Connor Cannizzaro rubbed Big Red junior defenseman Jordan Stevens off of a screen behind the cage, curled around the left post, and bounced the ball in with 8:12 left, setting up Chanenchuk's heroics.
Cornell made its earliest exit from the NCAA tournament since 2008, when it lost to Ohio State, 15-7, in the first round.
“It was exactly what we expected with the pace of the game, the intensity of the game,” interim coach Matt Kerwick said. “Unfortunately, they got that last possession and were able to capitalize.”