Home is where the Maryland men's lacrosse team wants to be for the first round of the NCAA tournament, and the No. 7 Terps might have ensured that scenario with a 12-6 victory over visiting Navy on Saturday.
With the win, Maryland improved to 11-3 and appeared to lock up one of the eight seeds — and a guaranteed home game — in the first round of the tournament. It would be the third time in the last five seasons that the Terps have hosted an NCAA tournament contest at Byrd Stadium, where they are 7-0 this season.
"We just wanted to win and put ourselves in the best position to play in Byrd again," said senior short-stick defensive midfielder Brian Cooper (Archbishop Spalding). "I think it would be great to get a home game. We obviously have had success here in the season, and we would like to keep that going."
Before an announced 4,538 at Byrd Stadium, Maryland was paced by two goals and one assist each from junior attackman Jay Carlson and freshman attackman Matt Rambo. Junior midfielder Joe LoCascio scored twice, and senior goalkeeper Niko Amato finished with 10 saves.
The Terps won without much of a contribution from leading scorer Mike Chanenchuk, who injured his ankle in their 6-5 loss to Notre Dame in an Atlantic Coast Conference semifinal on April 25 and suffered a minor setback during Wednesday's practice. The senior attackman, who leads the team in goals (28) and assists (16), made his 14th start of the season, but quickly left the field after the opening faceoff and played only on the man-up offense.
"We were going to err on the side of caution," coach John Tillman said of Chanenchuk, who took just one shot. "I'm happy with the way things went out. He played less, but he got to start on senior day."
Chanenchuk's absence was filled by Carlson, who had made seven consecutive starts before giving way to freshman Connor Cannizzaro. The Cockeysville native and St. Paul's graduate said he never lost confidence in himself.
"If I'm going to be the fourth attackman and go in not as much as before, then whatever works, I'll do," said Carlson, who ranks third on the team in goals with 21 and is tied with Cannizzaro for third in points with 26. "Today, Mike Chanenchuk was out. So I had to start at attack again. So I resumed my leadership role. I feel like I know the game, I know the game plan very well."
Despite Chanenchuk's limited play, Maryland never trailed against the Midshipmen. The Terps opened the scoring when senior long-stick midfielder Michael Ehrhardt stripped Navy senior midfielder Pat Durkin, grabbed the ground ball and passed to junior defenseman Casey Ikeda streaking down the middle of the field. Ikeda carried the ball into the offensive zone and fired a shot over sophomore goalie John Connors (10 stops) for the first goal of his career with 12:07 left in the first quarter.
The Mids tied the score at 1 when senior midfielder Sean Price centered the ball to senior attackman Tucker Hull in the slot with 10:54 remaining. But Maryland went on a 5-0 run that ended 66 seconds into the second quarter on a goal by LoCascio. Rambo's skip pass was tipped by Navy senior long-stick midfielder Pat Kiernan, but LoCascio picked the ball out of the air and nailed a shot from the high slot to give the Terps a 6-1 advantage.
The Midshipmen got no closer than three goals the rest of the game.
Senior attackman Tucker Hull led Navy (4-10) with two goals and one assist, and seniors accounted for eight of the team's nine points.
"We're leaving the younger guys in good hands with the coaches, and for us as seniors, it's — for a cliche — bittersweet," Hull said. "At the same time, we're all excited to go out there and start doing our jobs, what we actually came here to do. Lacrosse has always been on the back burner to academics and the military aspect of our school."
Notes: The Terps improved to 55-33-1 in their series with Navy; they have won the past five meetings. … Maryland wrapped up an undefeated regular season at home for the first time since 2001, when that squad went 6-0. … The Mids have not won in College Park since April 4, 2008.