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Maryland men’s lacrosse exerts dominance in 17-11 win against Vermont, advances to NCAA quarterfinals

COLLEGE PARK — For the first time in five years, the Maryland men’s lacrosse program actually got to enjoy its NCAA tournament opener.

The No. 3 seed Terps broke a 2-2 tie in the first quarter with five straight goals and never led by fewer than three to cruise to a 17-11 victory over visiting Vermont in a first-round matchup Sunday afternoon before an announced 2,735 at Maryland Stadium.

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Maryland (13-0), the Big Ten regular-season and tournament champion, advanced to the quarterfinals, where it will meet No. 6 seed Notre Dame (8-3) on Sunday at noon or 2:30 p.m. at Arlotta Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. The Fighting Irish outlasted Drexel, 10-8, on Saturday afternoon.

The first round of recent NCAA postseasons had been rough for the Terps, who earned their most lopsided win in an opener since the 2016 squad pummeled Quinnipiac, 13-6. Since 2012, they’ve won four opening games by one goal (including 2019 in overtime against Towson, 14-13) and two by three goals and absorbed an upset loss to Cornell in 2013.

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Coach John Tillman said he brought up that history with the players earlier in the week.

“We’ve had some tough matchups, and we’ve gotten out of the first round, but it hasn’t always been easy,” he said. “We bring up the past, but we also go, ‘Listen, you guys are a different team, but we’re bringing it up just because it’s a frame of reference from our experience.’ I said it once earlier in the year, ‘Hey, we lost to [another team] a few years ago,’ and [senior attackman] Logan [Wisnauskas] was like, ‘We’re a different team.’ So I appreciated that comment, but I also wanted to make sure that we remembered that it’s for some of the younger guys that we are different and we want to make sure that we learn from some of those things.

“There’s nothing wrong with looking back and saying, ‘Hey, this is a potential trap.’ So just for context and our frame of mind, this was going to be tough.”

Maryland's Bubba Fairman (2) and teammate Kyle Long, second from right, celebrate after Long scored the team's 14th goal Sunday in the NCAA first round.
Maryland's Bubba Fairman (2) and teammate Kyle Long, second from right, celebrate after Long scored the team's 14th goal Sunday in the NCAA first round. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

While Maryland was enjoying its Division I-leading 18th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, its opponent, the Catamounts, was making its postseason debut. The Terps’ familiarity with the pressures of playing in the NCAA tournament stood in stark contrast to Vermont, which was participating in its first postseason in program history after defeating Albany for the America East tournament crown on May 8. On the flipside, 13 of Maryland’s players had played in a combined 49 NCAA tournament games.

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The Catamounts’ inaugural appearance at this stage of the postseason was exemplified by a game-worst 22 turnovers (including 15 in the first half), a 12 of 32 performance on faceoffs from a unit that had entered the game ranked third in Division I (a .720 win percentage) in that department, and an offense that disappeared for stretches of 14:09 and 12:42.

Twelve of Vermont’s turnovers were caused by the Terps, who scored seven goals off of Catamount miscues, and the starting attack of graduate student Michael McCormack, senior Liam Limoges and junior David Closterman combined for two goals on 10 shots, four assists and eight turnovers.

“We’re just trying to dictate tempo and play our game, play Maryland lacrosse,” said junior long-stick midfielder John Geppert, who led all players with a game-high four caused turnovers. “When you look back at what Maryland lacrosse is, it comes down to defense and chasing people around and making them uncomfortable, and I think we did a really good job doing that today. It’s something we’ve been focusing on all year.”

It also helped the Terps that they can rely on Jared Bernhardt, the senior attackman who on Friday was named one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, college lacrosse’s version of the Heisman Trophy. Bernhardt amassed six goals (the second-most in an NCAA tournament game in program history) and one assist.

“Jared’s such a good decision maker,” junior midfielder Kyle Long said of Bernhardt, who scored three of his team’s five goals in the first quarter. “If he’s feeling like we should progress, he goes and makes a play. We can play any tempo, and I think that’s what benefits our offense so well. If we want to get up and down, we can because we have the D-middies that can really do that. Or if we want to slow it down, we can do that, too.”

Bernhardt was complemented by Long’s three goals and one assist, Wisnauskas’ two goals and one assist, and sophomore attackman Daniel Maltz’s one goal and two assists.

Maryland also got a significant boost from a faceoff unit headlined by specialists Justin Shockey and Luke Wierman and featuring teammates like short-stick defensive midfielders Roman Pugliese and Joshua Coffman and long-stick midfielders Justin Sherrer and Geppert. Shockey won 19 of 28 draws with a game-high 10 ground balls, Wierman scored a goal on the only faceoff he won in four attempts in the fourth quarter, Coffman (Severna Park) finished with five ground balls, one goal and one assist, and Geppert picked up two ground balls.

Shockey enjoyed much of his success against Vermont sophomore Tommy Burke, who had entered the game ranked third in Division I in faceoff percentage (.720) and fourth in ground balls per game (9.1). Burke went 11 of 26 with seven ground balls and one goal.

“We saw the stats and obviously did a lot of things to prepare,” Tillman said. “You know, 72%, that doesn’t happen by accident. So a lot of respect for Burke in that regard. We just kind of knew what the game plan was going to be. They win a lot of faceoffs, take possessions deep into the clock. Knowing that we were going to be at least in reach of 50 or so, that would have been helpful. To be that much better was huge.”

Junior midfielder Thomas McConvey paced Vermont (9-5) with four goals and two assists, sophomore midfielder JJ Levandowski added three goals and one assist, and senior goalkeeper Ryan Cornell made a game-best 12 saves.

NCAA quarterfinals

NO. 3 MARYLAND@NO. 6 NOTRE DAME

Saturday, noon or 2:30 p.m.

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