Throughout this men’s college lacrosse season, there were doubts about how unbeaten and No. 3 seed Maryland would play against one of the top teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference.
All those concerns were eased Sunday.
Senior midfielder Anthony DeMaio scored on a give-and-go from senior attackman Logan Wisnauskas 39 seconds into overtime to lift the Terps past No. 6 seed Notre Dame, 14-13, in an NCAA quarterfinal in South Bend, Indiana.
Maryland (14-0) will play No. 2 seed Duke (14-2) — a 10-9 winner in overtime over Loyola Maryland earlier Sunday — in a national semifinal Saturday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. No. 1 seed North Carolina will play No. 4 seed Virginia in the other semifinal.
For most of Sunday, it appeared that championship weekend was going to be an All-ACC showdown.
The Terps had other plans. Maryland won the opening faceoff in overtime, and after subbing out several players, the Terps eventually got the ball to Wisnauskas, who threw a sharp pass left of the cage to DeMaio, who had a step on Notre Dame midfielder Ryan Hallenbeck.
DeMaio placed his shot over the head of 6-foot-3 goalie Liam Entenmann, setting off a raucous celebration with his teammates on Notre Dame’s home field.
“We were just kind of reading their defense to see what they were giving up,” DeMaio said. “We had played off some of picks earlier in the game. But we have been playing together for a long time now and we trust each other. Whether we’re down 3-1 or 3-0, we will do whatever we need to do to win. That trust and confidence will help us down the stretch.”
Despite the unbeaten record, the Terps needed to prove themselves. Because of the coronavirus, Big Ten officials restricted its member teams to play only within the conference this season, which hurt Maryland because the Terps traditionally play ACC powerhouses such as Virginia and North Carolina. Maryland needed another tough game, other than the two tight contests they played against rival Johns Hopkins earlier this season.
“Obviously, I am proud of our guys to come out in the quarterfinals and get a win,” said Maryland coach John Tillman, whose Terps are 9-1 in the NCAA quarterfinals under his watch. “This was the kind of game where neither team deserved to lose. We knew Notre Dame would come back. We knew they were awesome, and they were as advertised.”
The Fighting Irish were in a great position to pull an upset, leading 12-9 with 12:01 left in the game after a goal from senior attackman Will Yorke. But Maryland scored four straight goals, including two from Wisnauskas. The second, on an assist from Daniel Maltz, put the Terps ahead 13-12 with 6:52 left.
Notre Dame tied the game at 13 on a goal from midfielder Wheaton Jackoboice with 4:24 remaining, but the momentum had shifted in Maryland’s’ favor and the Fighting Irish looked tired. More impressive for Maryland was that it made the run without much contribution from top scoring attackman Jared Bernhardt, who still finished with five goals.
“That offense is a tough one to prepare for,” Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. “I thought Liam was good today, but don’t think we got to where we always needed to be defensively.”
Neither did Maryland. The Terps were slow on slides during most of the game. To have a chance at beating Maryland and slowing the offense, the opposing team has to control faceoffs, and Notre Dame won 20 of 30. The Fighting Irish also got a strong effort from Entenmann, who finished with 16 saves, and consistently beat Maryland’s defensive midfielders as Jackoboice finished with four goals and follow middies Eric Dobson and Sean Leahey each had two.
But the Terps won because they were gritty. They have put together scoring surges all season long, and they had a five-goal run in the first quarter and a four-goal spurt in the fourth. And of course, they have Bernhardt, who tortured Notre Dame in the first half.
The teams were tied at 7 at the half as Maryland dominated the first quarter and Notre Dame controlled the second.
The Terps took a 5-1 lead the end of the first quarter because they were very effective in half-field sets and moved the ball extremely well. Notre Dame scored the game’s first goal as Jackoboice scored in the first two minutes, but Maryland responded with five straight.
Despite facing what many considered the best defense in the country, Maryland took advantage by isolating Notre Dame’s short-stick midfielders. The Fighting Irish also couldn’t contain Bernhardt, who had two goals in the first quarter, the last with 1:32 to go.
Bernhardt scored during both settled and unsettled situations. Attackman Griffin Brown also had two first-quarter goals for Maryland, one with 9:48 remaining and the other with 6:25 left.
Notre Dame has been a dominant offensive team in the second quarter, having outscored opponents 57-25 in the period, and that continued Sunday with a 6-2 advantage.
The Irish started to be more physical, got some excellent one-on-one stops from Entenmann and won faceoffs. Notre Dame also started isolating Maryland’s defensive midfielders up near the top of the restraining box.
Leahey had two goals in the second quarter as Notre Dame went ahead 6-5 on a goal from attackman Griffin Westlin with 5:47 left in the half. Bernhardt scored two straight to put Maryland up 7-6 with 2:13 remaining before Wheaton tied the game with 1:38 left in the half.
“The second quarter was the worst we have played all year and we were still tied at 7-7,” Tillman said.
NCAA MEN’S LACROSSE SEMIFINALS
Saturday at East Hartford, Conn.
>> No. 1 seed North Carolina vs. No. 4 seed Virginia, noon
>> No. 3 seed Maryland vs. No. 2 seed Duke, 2:30 p.m.