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Postscript from Maryland's men's lacrosse national championship loss to Denver

The cut on Maryland senior defenseman Casey Ikeda's forehead wasn't as painful as the blow to his heart after the No. 6 seed Terps lost to No. 4 seed Denver, 10-5, in the NCAA Division I tournament final at Lincoln Financial Field Monday.

The setback dropped the Terps to 0-8 since the 1975 squad captured the national championship and extended their title drought to 41 years. That realization was difficult for Ikeda to accept.

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"Right now, it hurts real bad," said the first-team All-American defenseman who wept while walking off the field. "It cuts real fresh. It's just tough to know that my career at Maryland is over. But I know weeks, months from now, I'm going to feel proud of what we've accomplished as a team, and I know the future at the University of Maryland is going to be bright."

Since Saturday's 12-11 win over Johns Hopkins in the semifinals, much of the talk here had centered on the Terps having a chance to bring home an eagerly-awaited crown. But senior attackman Jay Carlson dismissed the notion that the team stumbled under the weight of those expectations.

"It just made us play harder," the St. Paul's graduate said. "I don't think we really put much into it. We know it's been a long time since that championship, and it just made us more engaged and more focused to play harder because we speak to our alumni on a daily basis and we knew they wanted us to get a national championship. It's pretty unfortunate we didn't make it happen."

The program will have several holes in the offseason as Carlson, Ikeda, midfielder Joe LoCascio and faceoff specialist Charlie Raffa have graduated. But junior midfielder Bryan Cole declared that the players should feel proud of what they accomplished.

"Once everyone gets a day or two to step away from this whole weekend and kind of look back on how far we've come as a team, I think everyone won't look at this year as a disappointment," he said. "We wanted to close out it out with a couple wins, and that didn't happen. But the relationships that we've built, the family bond that we've built is just incredible, and it's something you can't replace after a year like this."

Circling back to "Three Things to Watch"

1) Production. After averaging 11.3 goals in their first three games of the postseason, the Terps were held to a season-low five by a Denver opponent that had surrendered 10.6 goals per game in the tournament. Senior goalkeeper Ryan LaPlante made a game-high 13 saves for Denver, and coach John Tillman acknowledged that Maryland's shooters rarely tested LaPlante on low or bouncing shots. But he also pointed out that the offense became lethargic at the worst time against a defense that didn't unveil any surprises.

"I thought they just executed really well," he said. "We had a tough time getting leverage. We got stagnant off the ball. We weren't cutting to the pipes and moving inside as much as we could have. All that being said, we had some looks, and we just got stubborn a little bit, and that's probably the best word with our shooting."

2) Defense. The Pioneers scored the game's first three goals – all by senior attackman and Tewaaraton Award finalist Wesley Berg – and never let the Terps get closer than 2-1 with 9:19 left in the first quarter. Maryland redshirt junior goalie Kyle Bernlohr, who entered the game ranked first in the country in goals-against average (6.78) and sixth in save percentage (.577), finished with 10 saves, but the first-team All American conceded he was shaky in the opening period.

"I think I just needed to take a breath and be patient," Bernlohr said. "I was a little antsy and a little jumpy in the first. That's when I think I was caught guessing on a few of those instead of reacting and trusting my quick hands. So I could have done a better job on those long-angled shots in the first half."

3) Exhaustion. Aside from the score, the rest of the game's statistics were tight. Denver outshot the Terps by just three, picked up just five more ground balls, and won just one more faceoff. But Tillman admitted that the quick turnaround from Saturday's semifinal to Monday's title game might  have taken a larger toll than he initially thought, and he put the blame on himself for not preparing his players.

"Obviously, I didn't do a very good job of getting them ready mentally, and that's on me," Tillman said. "I told the kids that when we win, it's theirs. When we lose, obviously I haven't done certain things right. And candidly, when you get here, you just feel like you're trying to do everything you can to get your kids in the right spot to win, and I've got to do a better job kind of evaluating how we spend the time after Saturday night's game until now so we can put them in a better chance of being successful."

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