For the fourth consecutive year, there will be a new national champion in Division I men’s lacrosse.
No. 4 seed Duke guaranteed that by upending No. 1 seed and 2017 champion Maryland, 13-8, in the second of two NCAA tournament semifinals before an announced 30,616 at Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Blue Devils (16-3) advanced to their sixth title game and fourth since 2010. They won the crown in 2010, 2013 and 2014. They will meet No. 3 seed Yale on Monday at 1 p.m. after the Bulldogs (16-3) walloped No. 2 seed Albany (16-3), 20-11, in the first semifinal.
The loss prevented the Terps (14-4) from making their fourth consecutive appearance in the championship game. It marked only the second time in coach John Tillman’s eight-year tenure that the program has lost in the national semifinals.
“Obviously very disappointed to see the journey end,” Tillman said. “I think that’s the hardest thing. There were a bunch of tears in the locker room. I think at this time of the year, whether you get to Monday or not, you know that journey’s going to end, and that’s probably the hardest thing just because this group has been so tight all year.”
Maryland’s hopes of earning an opportunity to retain last year’s title dwindled in the opening 18 minutes of the semifinal as Duke sprinted to a 6-0 advantage with 12:44 left in the second quarter. Freshman midfielder Nakeie Montgomery scored two of his team-high-tying three goals and junior midfielder Brad Smith added two assists during that spurt.
“Very proud of our guys for jumping – executing really well offensively early on, withstanding the run that you knew that Maryland was going to make, and then again executing really well and with a lot of contributions from a lot of people,” Blue Devils coach John Danowski said. “So I thought it was a real team effort.”
Five of Duke’s opening six goals occurred on dodges against Maryland’s short-stick defensive midfielders and a couple of offensive midfielders, and Tillman said the defensive players were late in sliding to support the short-sticks.
“We had some miscommunication early, and we were late,” he said. “We actually picked up a little too late, and I think that’s part of what hurt us. When we addressed the ball, we picked up so late that they were a lot closer than they should have been, and if you’re sliding late on top of that, they’re going to get good looks.”
The Terps ended their drought 68 seconds later when sophomore attackman Jared Bernhardt curled the right post, waited for junior short-stick defensive midfielder John Prendergast to over-pursue him, and then waltzed to the front to beat fifth-year senior goalkeeper Danny Fowler.
The sides each had two more goals before Maryland closed out the half with back-to-back scores to draw within 8-5. First, redshirt freshman attackman Logan Wisnauskas (Boys’ Latin) collected a pass from fifth-year senior midfielder Tim Rotanz, curled around the right post and scored with 2:52 remaining.
Then Fowler stopped a shot by senior midfielder Connor Kelly from the left point, but Kelly grabbed the loose ball and skipped it to Rotanz for a step-down blast from the right point with 2:01 left.
The Terps opened the third quarter with goals from Kelly and freshman midfielder Bubba Fairman to narrow the deficit to 8-7 with 8:05 remaining in the period. But freshman attackman Joe Robertson’s goal from the high slot off a pass from senior attackman Justin Guterding with 4:55 left in the third ignited a 4-0 run for Duke that proved insurmountable for Maryland.
Fowler said the defense did not panic when Maryland made its run in the third quarter.
“Guys made plays in the middle of the field,” said Fowler, who made 12 saves. “That helped us relax a little bit, and then defensively we were able to stick to our game plan and make the plays we needed to make and knew how to make and just execute. Really it was about focusing on the next play rather than thinking about what just happened.”
Perhaps the most glaring statistic was that the Terps turned the ball over 13 times to the Blue Devils’ six and that 11 of Maryland’s turnovers were caused by Duke.
“They’re very athletic from top to bottom – their poles, their close guys, their shorties,” said Kelly, who had one goal and three assists. “They’re a handful. I know Yale’s going to have a tough time beating them. They’re just a great group. They talk a lot on defense. The biggest thing that stands out is their athleticism, but I thought we had a good offense implemented. I’ll take a lot of the blame. I sort of had some costly turnovers and some costly shots. That’s on me.”
Guterding, a Tewaaraton Award finalist, finished with three goals and three assists for the Blue Devils. Robertson contributed three goals and one assist.
The Terps got three-point efforts from Wisnauskas (two goals, one assist) and Rotanz (one goal, two assists). Fifth-year senior goalie Dan Morris made 14 saves, and freshman faceoff specialist Justin Shockey won 12 of 18 draws and picked up six ground balls.
Duke 4 4 2 3 — 13
Maryland 0 5 2 1 — 8
Goals: D—Guterding 3, Montgomery 3, Robertson 3, Conley, Lowrie, Quigley, Walsh; M—Bernhardt 2, Wisnauskas 2, DeMaio, Fairman, Kelly, Rotanz. Assists: D—Guterding 3, Manown 2, B.Smith 2, Robertson; M—Kelly 3, Rotanz 2, Wisnauskas. Saves: D—Fowler 12; M—Morris 14.