PHILADELPHIA — The abbreviated warmup time caused by the Denver men's lacrosse team's 11-10 overtime win against Notre Dame in Saturday's first NCAA Division I tournament semifinal at Lincoln Financial Field wasn't a problem for several of Maryland's older players.
"Having some experience in the Final Four definitely is an important thing," said senior defenseman Casey Ikeda, who has played in the Terps' past two trips to Championship Weekend. "Coming in, you kind of know what to expect. You know how it's going to be with the short warmup, and it's tough to handle if it's your first time. So we have a little bit of experience, and we were able to use that to our advantage, I guess."
No. 6 seed Maryland's 12-11 win over Johns Hopkins in the second semifinal was an exercise in calm. Although the Blue Jays (11-7) had two chances in the final minute of regulation to tie the game and send it to overtime, they ended with Maryland redshirt junior goalkeeper Kyle Bernlohr's picking up Shack Stanwick's errant shot, which had settled in the outside netting of the cage, and blocking Joel Tinney's attempt from the high slot.
Bernlohr is one of six Terps (15-3) who have been playing for the program since 2013. Four — senior midfielders Joe LoCascio and Bobby Gribbin, senior attackman Jay Carlson and senior faceoff specialist Charlie Raffa — were members of the 2012 team that lost to Loyola Maryland in the championship game that year.
"A lot of our older guys have been to a couple of Final Fours, so we do think we have the experience, and we know what it takes to win those tough games, especially in front of a huge crowd," said Carlson (St. Paul's). "We also have a couple of younger guys on our team, so we'd like to be great leaders to them, tell them what it's going to be like, have them know what it's going to be like. They might be a little scared and a little nervous of the limelight, but we just want to lead the way, and if they follow our lead, we'll be successful."
Hopkins, meanwhile, was playing in its first NCAA semifinal since 2008, and coach Dave Pietramala conceded that the players' unfamiliarity with the final four might have contributed to the team's slow start.
"Yeah, that had something to do with it," he said. "And I think we settled down in the second half, and we went back to playing blue-collar, hard-nosed Johns Hopkins lacrosse in the second half. Unfortunately, we didn't do that in the first half. And the guys we were playing are pretty darned good."
Circling back to "Three Things to Watch" …
1) Tempo. The Terps have relied on Raffa to set the tone, and he lived up to his reputation, winning eight of 12 faceoffs in the first half. Not surprisingly, Maryland took a 6-4 lead into halftime, and Pietramala said the Blue Jays went to freshman Hunter Moreland (Boys' Latin) and more aggressive wing play to try to counter Raffa. It worked, as Hopkins won 8-for-14 in the second half, but Raffa still had a goal and a game-high seven ground balls in the Terps' victory.
"He was huge for us today," coach John Tillman said. "We win by a goal. He wins more than he loses, and he throws in a goal. So we just had to do what we needed to do to give ourselves a chance. Didn't know it would work out, but I'm happy for him and our players that it did."
2) No. 4. The Blue Jays defeated Maryland, 15-12, in the regular-season finale for both teams on April 25 thanks to eight goals from junior attackman Ryan Brown. Ikeda, a first-team All-American, got that assignment and got it again Saturday. This time, he limited Brown to one goal on eight shots, and although the Calvert Hall graduate finished with two assists, Brown noted that Maryland was more cognizant of where he was.
"I think they did a little better job of matching up and knowing where I was at all times," he said. "But it was really the same defense. I don't think I shot the ball particularly well today. I could've scored a couple more goals if I was a bit more dialed in. They're a terrific defense, and I think that showed today."
3) Adjustments. After trailing 10-5 with 7:28 left in the third quarter, Hopkins went on a 5-0 run over an 8:07 span to tie the score. Although the team couldn't sustain that pace and overtake the Terps, Pietramala was pleased with the Blue Jays' refusal to limp out.
"We just played better lacrosse," he said. "Give them credit; they're a very good team. They've had a great year. They're well coached. Their offense is better than people think. I just don't think we played great lacrosse in the first half. We made some subtle adjustments in the second half, but at the end of the day, we just played sounder, more fundamental lacrosse, and we played hard."