Maryland's Matt Rambo: 'I think it would be an honor and a privilege' to win Tewaaraton
All-time leading scorer for the Maryland men's lacrosse program. Division I's Outstanding Player. NCAA champion.
Those are just a few of the labels Matt Rambo has earned this spring. Is Tewaaraton Award winner next?
The senior attackman is considered the favorite to capture the honor given to college lacrosse's top player presented Thursday at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington.
Rambo said the award pales in comparison to playing a role in the Terps' first national championship since 1975, ending a string of nine fruitless trips to the NCAA title game.
"Lacrosse is a team sport, and I didn't come here to win individual awards," he said Wednesday. "We worked so hard together through blood, sweat and tears since August, and making everyone happy is the best goal that we could bring together. … Winning something together is a lot better than winning something alone."
He did acknowledge that becoming the university's first Tewaaraton winner would be a rewarding end to an illustrious career in which he became the program's career leader in goals with 155 and points with 257.
"I think it would be an honor and privilege to win this award," he said. "It's an honor to even be here. So it would be awesome."
The field also includes Denver junior faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste, Division I's Outstanding Midfielder whose 74.4 percent success rate ranks as the fourth highest in a single season in NCAA history; Albany junior attackman Connor Fields, the country's Outstanding Attackman who led the nation with 117 points; Yale junior attackman Ben Reeves, the school's all-time leading scorer with 201 points; and Loyola Maryland sophomore attackman Pat Spencer (Boys' Latin), who set program and Patriot League records for assists in a single season with 55.
Although the Tewaaraton Award is supposed to recognize individual excellence, how a player and his team fares in the postseason can tilt the balance. Reeves and Spencer were bounced from the first round of the NCAA tournament, while Rambo and Maryland beat Fields and the Great Danes, 18-9, in the quarterfinals.
"The way he finished, the way the team finished, I certainly think he's in the conversation," coach John Tillman said of Rambo at an on-campus ceremony Wednesday afternoon celebrating the championships claimed by the men's and women's lacrosse teams.
"That being said, the other guys there have had great seasons, too. Fields had a monster year, Trevor Baptiste is one of the — if not the — best faceoff guys ever, and obviously the other guys are pretty darned talented, too. I think sometimes when a team does better, that can help you. But I think all five of those guys are worthy guys based on the body of work that they have. I'm certainly pleased with what Matt did, and I'm super excited for him and his family to be a part of that because that's something they'll always remember."
Rambo's primary competition is believed to be Baptiste after both players sparked their team's march to the final four. But Baptiste was limited to 11-for-21 on faceoffs and six ground balls as the No. 5 seed Pioneers fell, 9-8, to the Terps in Saturday's semifinals. To ESPN and Big Ten Network analyst Mark Dixon, that result was of little consequence.
"I think [Rambo] had it before then, but yes, to the victor go the spoils," said Dixon, a former Johns Hopkins midfielder.
Rambo's haul of individual accolades this spring includes Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, first-team All-American, Lt. Raymond J. Enners Award given to Division I's Outstanding Player, and the No. 3 overall pick in the Major League Lacrosse draft. Despite joining former attackman Joe Walters as the only players in Maryland history to be named Tewaaraton finalists, Rambo said Thursday night's ceremony has not weighed on him.
"I'm not really nervous about tomorrow. I haven't really thought it too much," he said. "I've just been hanging out with my buddies."
On the women's side, Maryland has two senior finalists in midfielder Zoe Stukenberg (Marriotts Ridge) and defender Nadine Hadnagy. The program has had four players combine to win the award seven times, including Taylor Cummings, who became the first male or female three-time winner from 2014 to 2016.
Stukenberg ranked second on the team in points (84) and first in ground balls (48). Hadnagy ranked second in caused turnovers (26) and ground balls (30). The duo helped lead the Terps to a 23-0 season and their third national championship in four years.
The field also includes Stony Brook junior attacker Kyle Ohlmiller, who established Division I single-season records in assists (86) and points (164); North Carolina junior midfielder Marie McCool, the Atlantic Coast Conference's Midfielder of the Year who led the team in caused turnovers (19) and ranked second in goals (50), draw controls (55) and ground balls (30); and Princeton senior attacker Olivia Hompe, who set single-season school marks in goals (75) and points (110).
"For us at Maryland, Zoe and Nadine were the two leaders of our program and pretty much the faces of our program," Terps coach Cathy Reese said. "They're both so different as players, but such phenomenal people and the reason why we were so successful this year.
"We came into this season as a really young team, and for those two to take this team to an undefeated season and an NCAA championship is something really special. So we'll wait and see how it comes out tomorrow night, but I think at this point, those two have had very remarkable seasons."