PHILADELPHIA — Matt Rambo made sure his homecoming Saturday was a happy one.
A resident of Glenside, Pa., a suburb about 15 miles north of Philadelphia, and a graduate of La Salle College High in nearby Wyndmoor, Rambo was the difference in the Maryland men's lacrosse team's NCAA Division I tournament semifinal. He scored two goals in a span of less than three minutes to break a 10-10 tie, and the Terps held on for a 12-11 victory over Johns Hopkins before an announced 29,123 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Sixth-seeded Maryland improved to 15-3 and advanced to its third title game in five years. The Terps will meet No. 4 seed Denver in Monday's championship game. The Pioneers (16-2) beat top-seeded Notre Dame (12-3) in overtime, 11-10, in the day's earlier semifinal.
Maryland, which won NCAA titles in 1973 and 1975 but is 0-7 in championship games over the past 40 years, can thank Rambo and redshirt junior goalie Kyle Bernlohr for a shot at ending its decades of futility. Rambo had a game-high six points, tying his career high in points and goals (four), while Bernlohr had the game's biggest save.
After Hopkins freshman attackman Shack Stanwick (Boys' Latin) faked a shot from the right wing, moved into the slot and bounced the ball past Bernlohr with 73 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Blue Jays trailed by one, 12-11.
They won the ensuing faceoff, but Stanwick's shot went wide right. After Hopkins regained possession, freshman midfielder Joel Tinney's shot from the high slot was blocked by Bernlohr's stick with just seconds to go. The Terps recovered the ground ball and held on for the win.
"I would give all the credit to my other teammates around me on the offensive end there," Rambo said. "They were creating opportunities for me to get open off the crease when I was popping off. So I would give all the credit to them, and I was just finding spots and holes that I could just fill myself in."
Rambo, who leads the team in goals (38) and points (56), overcame a tumultuous start to the 2014 offseason. His involvement in an Oct. 22 incident in College Park led to charges of first- and second-degree assault and malicious destruction of property.
The first-degree assault charge was dismissed in November, and Rambo, 20, received probation before judgment on the second-degree assault charge, which allows a defendant's record to be cleared if he meets all conditions. He was acquitted of malicious destruction of property.
Rambo, who was suspended from team activities and scrimmages through the preseason, said he has moved beyond the incident.
"What happened was in the past," he said. "I've moved on from that. I'm in this moment now. I'm thinking about the final four. I'm not thinking about the past. I'm just moving on from that."
Coach John Tillman spoke with pride about Rambo's evolution as a player and a person.
"I love the kid to death," Tillman said. "And like any young guy, he's not perfect. And I've been as tough on him as any guy I've ever coached because I love him. I think we've kind of seen how some things have played out. I had to sit back and kind of let nature take its course on some things."
Maryland senior attackman Jay Carlson (St. Paul's) added four points on three goals and one assist. Bernlohr made six saves while surrendering 10 goals, and senior faceoff specialist Charlie Raffa won 14 of 26 draws, scored a goal and finished with a game-best seven ground balls.
Rambo's third goal of the game — an extra-man score with 9:59 left in the fourth quarter — broke a 10-10 tie, and his final goal with 7:24 remaining proved to be the game-winner.
Sophomore midfielder John Crawley paced Hopkins (11-7) with four goals, and Brown (Calvert Hall) had a goal and two assists. Schneider made a game-best 13 saves in the loss, which ended a seven-game winning streak and denied the Blue Jays their first appearance in the final since 2008.
"I think our first half cost us the game," coach Dave Pietramala said. "We got outplayed, outhustled, outworked. I thought, in the second half, we did what this team has always done. We answered the bell, we fought, they competed. They did what a Hopkins lacrosse team is supposed to do. I go home today, and I won't sleep well because we lost. But more importantly, I won't sleep well because I don't get to spend more time with this group of young men."
Notes: Maryland had 35 ground balls to Hopkins' 21, including 22 in the second half. The Terps also outshot the Blue Jays 44-35. … Maryland improved to 12-11 in the NCAA tournament semifinals and is 3-1 under coach John Tillman. … The Terps' 15 wins this season are a program high. … Maryland is 2-4 in the Final Four against Johns Hopkins. … The Blue Jays failed to become the eighth unseeded team to advance to the title game. … Johns Hopkins missed out on a chance to join 2010 Notre Dame as the only six-loss teams in the championship final.