COLLEGE PARK -- A week after one of its more embarrassing losses in the 17-year reign of coach Dick Edell, the Maryland men's lacrosse team found some unlikely heroes, played its trademark brand of stifling defense and certified itself as NCAA tournament qualifiers by edging Duke, 7-6, in the Atlantic Coast Conference semifinals at rainy Byrd Stadium last night.
In what was the second-lowest scoring game in the 12-year history of the ACC tournament, the No. 9 Terps used a wet field and a well-executed ball control strategy to their advantage. They also held the No. 8 Blue Devils to their lowest offensive output since 1996.
The Terps (8-3) advanced to tomorrow's ACC championship game against top-ranked Virginia, marking only the second time Maryland has played in the conference finals.
And they did it by showing remarkable resilience, six nights after their defense caved in by allowing 20 goals at Johns Hopkins -- the only time an Edell-coached Maryland team has surrendered that many.
"As soon as we left Baltimore [Saturday night], the big man [Edell] told us to forget about that," Maryland defenseman Casey Connor said.
The Terps were the same, old Terps last night. Connor and fellow defenseman Jason Carrier and Michael Howley, with help from short-stick midfielder Jeff Shirk and long-stick middie Geoff Burnham, hounded the Blue Devils (8-4) from the opening faceoff.
With few exceptions, the Terps cut off the middle of the field and forced Duke to settle for lower-percentage shots from poor angles on the wings. Maryland shut out attackmen Jared Frood and Greg Patchak. Only T.J. Durnan, the other part of Duke's All-America attack, hurt Maryland. Durnan scored two goals.
"This is a team that prides itself on playing solid, consistent defense. The goals we gave up last week hurt," Edell said. "We think this game meant more to our NCAA tournament aspirations than it did to [Duke]. We still have some work to do."
Maryland's best defense was its ball-control offense and open-field hustle. The Terps grabbed 51 ground balls to Duke's 31. And the game's most valuable player might have been sophomore Brian Carroll. He drew the unenviable task of taking on Duke faceoff specialist Scott Bross.
Carroll, who missed two days of practice last week after suffering a bruised knee in the 20-11 loss at Hopkins, whipped Bross by swiping 12 of 17 faceoffs, which allowed the Terps to dictate the slow-down tempo they prefer.
"I've been hot and cold all season long, but I was really feeling warm going into the game," Carroll said.
Carroll's performance helped senior midfielder Brian Zeller to break out of a scoring slump that has dogged him all spring. Zeller, a two-time All-America selection, came into the contest shooting 5-for-57 on the season. Last night, he scored the game's first goal, added another, then fed Marcus LaChapelle for the game-winner with 5: 39 left.
On the play, Zeller took on a double-team 15 yards from the cage, absorbed a check to the body, then dumped a one-handed pass to LaChapelle, who beat goalie Matt Breslin to make it 7-5.
"It was great to break out," said Zeller, who posted his first two-goal game of 2000.
Duke 1 2 0 3 -- 6
Maryland 3 0 1 3 -- 7
Goals: D--Durnan 2, N.Hartofilis 2, C.Hartofilis, Keaney; M--Zeller 2, LaChapelle, LaMonica, Malone, Morsell, Urlock. Assists: D--Frood 2, Schubert; M--Mollot 2, Zeller 2. Saves: D--Breslin 10; M--McGinnis 5.