No one would equate Maryland with the Buffalo Bills, who own the dubious distinction of having lost in four consecutive Super Bowls. But the heartache was visible on the faces of senior attackman Joe Cummings and senior midfielder Drew Snider after the Terps fell, 9-3, to No. 1 seed Loyola in Monday’s NCAA tournament final at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
It was the second straight year that Maryland had dropped the national title game after getting beat, 9-7, by Virginia last May. The Terps joined Johns Hopkins as the only teams in Division I to lose in back-to-back championship finals. (The Blue Jays are the only program to lose in three consecutive title contests in 1981, 1982 and 1983.)
It may take a while for the pain to subside, but Maryland coach John Tillman said he hopes the players will take solace in what they accomplished.
“[W]hen you reflect back on where we started and all the adversity we went through, I think we’ll all reflect when the pain goes away, and it’s not quite as new. What these guys did was pretty amazing,” he said in the aftermath of Monday’s setback. “To lose so many guys and the entire starting [defense], three out of our top four attackmen, to lose our best middie, Jake [Bernhardt, who sat out the season with a shoulder injury]. To have [junior faceoff specialist] Curtis [Holmes] hurt at the beginning of the year, [sophomore goalkeeper] Niko [Amato] had a good year, but maybe not a Niko year and yet take it to the same place we went last year, it just speaks volumes to the improvement these kids made, how hard they worked, the coaching staff and what they did. I’m very fortunate because you’re as good as your staff. Hopefully, the kids getting close will motivate them to try to get back and get it done. Maybe there is some confidence that’s built up that, ‘Hey, you know what? It doesn’t matter what happens to us, we can make it back.’ Those are the life lessons that I hope the kids take away. We’ve had our moments where when things didn’t look good. Guys maybe weren’t getting along or we weren’t having good practices. Yet guys kept the faith. They stuck together. They really got what it meant at the end of the year. What it means to be a Terp, what it means to sacrifice for each other, how important it was to play a certain way and represent our school. That legacy will be left for a long time.”
The loss ended the careers of Cummings, Snider, midfielders Michael Shakespeare and Pat Morrison, short-stick defensive midfielder David Miller, defenseman Tim Shaeffer and goalkeeper M.J. Leonard. But Cummings hoped that the back-to-back trips to the tournament final set a foundation for future players.
“[M]y hope is that our class and this team is that we established a legacy that getting to the championship and winning the championship is the goal every year,” the Towson native and Loyola graduate said. “And I hope future Terps, when they come in, they know that’s the goal, that’s what they have to work for every year and they have to put in the work because it’s not easy, but it’s the most fun and awesome experience that I’ve ever had.”