PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Maryland's dreamlike tournament run climaxed with a bitter and ugly nightmare.
The winningest team in Terrapins lacrosse history unraveled in the NCAA championship game yesterday with a rapid downward spiral of frustrated cheap shots and ill-tempered remarks. Total damage: No. 2 Princeton 15, No. 5 Maryland 5, before 17,225 at Rutgers Stadium and a national television audience, as the Tigers continued their dominance of Division I with their third straight national title.
The Terps refused to accept defeat graciously, with seven penalties in the final 6: 11. By game's end, Maryland's 11 fouls more than doubled its goal total and left such forgettable images as vehement arguments with referees, violent illegal hits and Terps defenseman Casey Connor's chucking a penalty flag at the Princeton band.
"I apologized to [Princeton coach] Billy Tierney at the end of the game and told him that I didn't want to mar their day in any way," Maryland coach Dick Edell said. "I felt we handled it poorly, but it was the frustration of such great expectations and such futile results."
All year, the Terps (14-3) relied on their domination of faceoffs, third-quarter runs and the productivity of Matt Hahn. But yesterday, Princeton shut down each facet, including Hahn, a senior who was shut out for the first time in his college career, ending a 61-game scoring streak.
And Princeton (14-1) capitalized every time in championship fashion, pulling away from a 3-3 halftime tie with a five-goal blitz to open the third quarter.
Maryland answered only with a flurry of embarrassment, wallowing in a drought during the final 12: 47 for its lowest goal total in six years.
The Terps, who outshot the Tigers, 45-38, proved to be no opposition against a Princeton defense in flux by taking hasty, wild shots. And behind the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, goalkeeper Corey Popham, the Tigers displayed few weaknesses in adjusting to the loss of first-team All-America defender Christian Cook, who tore a knee ligament 42 hours before the championship game.
"It's tough because we got good looks," said Hahn, who misfired on all eight of his shots. "We started getting the same shots we've seen all year, but we just didn't finish them."
The decisive third-quarter run started with a nudge from little-used Princeton senior Greg Mecca.
Battling the premier faceoff team in the nation, the Tigers switched at the beginning of the third to Mecca, who had won only 14 of 37 draws this season (38 percent). Nevertheless, Mecca controlled three of the quarter's first four faceoffs to trigger the rout.
"Each and every year, I have had a senior step up," Tierney said. "At the hotel last night, I told Greg, 'Tap me on the shoulder if you think you can do this.' He tapped me on the shoulder at the half."
The crippling blow in that spurt came 4: 41 into the third, with the Tigers ahead 4-3.
Trying to clear the ball out of the Terps' defensive end, Maryland's Brian Reese carelessly tossed it behind goalkeeper Kevin Healy. Princeton's Jon Hess, who was out of position behind the defense, picked up the loose ball and walked in on the open goal.
Maryland lacked concentration on clears the entire game, failing to move the ball upfield on seven of 19 opportunities.
"I wasn't riding too hard," Hess said. "The ball just fell into my hands."
Tierney then chimed in, saying: "That's senior leadership for you."
Princeton scored two more times on goals by Josh Sims and Hess in a 1 1/2 -minute span to go ahead 7-3 against a reeling Maryland defense.
"Obviously, it was a downer," Edell said. "Princeton's too good of a team to give anything away. We gave them one; we gave them a freebie."
The Tigers expanded their advantage to 11-5 midway through the fourth quarter, when Maryland created a penalty frenzy.
On a marginal out-of-bounds call at midfield, Maryland's Andrew Whipple and Reese jumped in the referees' faces to draw two unsportsmanlike fouls. In the melee, Connor picked up one of the four flags on the field and sidearmed it at the Princeton band sitting in the first couple of rows of the stadium, putting the Terps in a three-man-down situation for a minute.
Just over a minute later, Maryland's Scott Hochstadt and Jeff Shirk were flagged for unnecessary roughness. Hochstadt kneed Ted Martell, who had fallen in a collision, in the chest, and Maryland found itself two men down for another minute.
"I want to apologize for the team's actions," said Hochstadt, a Boys' Latin graduate. "It wasn't our team out there. We were really frustrated. It wasn't classy at all."
Princeton retaliated only on the scoreboard, scoring the final seven goals of the game, with three coming off extra-man chances. With the third-largest margin of victory in the championship game, the Tigers became the third school to win LTC three consecutive title games, joining Johns Hopkins (1978 to 1980) and Syracuse (1988 to 1990).
Maryland, which last won a national title in 1975, finished as runner-up for the third time in four years, but left this time with another mark as well.
"We acted stupid. We didn't need that," Maryland senior defenseman Mike Bonanni said. "Like Big Man [Edell] told us at the end: 'It really puts a black mark on our performance this whole weekend.'
"People already have a bad impression of us as it is, and we didn't do much to help it today. It was a lot of frustration, but there's no excuse for it."
Pub Date: 5/26/98