After two straight losses to its chief rival within a week, the Maryland men’s lacrosse team regained some much-needed confidence with a 14-13 come-from-behind victory against No. 6 seed Towson on Sunday in the first round of the NCAA Division I tournament.
The Terps, who trailed by a goal with 1:50 left, tied the game at 13 with three seconds remaining in regulation on a goal from junior attackman Jared Bernhardt. Senior attackman Louis Dubick did the rest, taking a feed from freshman attackman Kyle Long just inside the crease to score the game-winning goal with 2:21 remaining in the four-minute overtime period.
The goal ignited a wild celebration by the Terps, who had suffered back-to-back losses to Johns Hopkins on April 27 and March 2. Maryland will play former Atlantic Coast Conference rival Virginia, the No. 3 seed, in the quarterfinals Saturday in Hempstead, N.Y.
But the Terps weren’t that concerned about the Cavaliers on Sunday, not yet anyway. They were down by four goals late in the second quarter and had to go the length of the field in about 20 seconds to tie the game in regulation.
“The last couple of games we got down, and I didn’t do well. I thought I had to do a better job of keeping us in the game,” Maryland coach John Tillman said. “It’s hard to say one game is more important than the other, but it’s the most recent game that is the most important, and this was the most recent one.
“This game, this win, allows us to stay together for another week.”
Teams can gain a lot of confidence from wins like this, and this might have been the best game of the 2019 lacrosse season. It had all the elements. When the Terps were close to being eliminated, they survived by beating two of the nations’s top players, midfielder Zach Goodrich and defenseman Koby Smith, for goals in crunch time.
And when Towson was on the verge of being eliminated, the Tigers got big goals from two of their top offensive stars, attackmen Brody McLean and Brendan Sunday, with 2:26 and 1:50 remaining in regulation, respectively, to pull ahead 13-12.
But one of the big stars in the game was Dubick, whose father and grandfather played at Maryland. Louis Dubick, from Potomac, was starting his first game of the season.
“I have played up here so many times,” Dubick said. “It means so much to me because I know a lot of the guys from around here and I just kind of had this weird feeling. It was kind of strange.”
Dubick will make a lot of highlight reels, but it was goalie Danny Dolan who was the Terps’ unsung hero. All season long, opposing teams have picked on Maryland’s soft close defense, and Towson had plenty of opportunities Sunday, outshooting Maryland 47-34.
But Dolan finished with 15 saves. When there were lulls in Maryland’s offense, he carried the Terps, or at least kept them in the game. When its tournament time, a team needs a hot goalie.
For Maryland, this is Dolan’s time to dominate in the postseason.
“It just seems like Danny keeps us in the game,” Dubick said. “What, 15 saves? That’s ridiculous. He just keeps fighting and fighting and fighting. He has been one of the guys I look up to in how he handles his business. He has been there for us all year.”
If Maryland lost, it would have been the Terps’ first opening-round defeat since falling to Cornell in 2013. Tillman stressed that his team needed to play better this week because they’ve struggled in first-round games, even when they’ve won.
“Things happen so fast this time of year,” said Tillman, alluding to final exams and postseason play. “Then you lose and it is all over and there is that empty feeling inside.”
The Tigers (11-5) were feeling empty Sunday. They blew several leads and couldn’t hold off Maryland on the Terps’ last possession in overtime. They got a heroic effort from face-off specialist Alex Woodall, who played despite what some believed was a broken jaw. Woodall still won 22 of 31 faceoffs.
Towson got four goals from McClean and four goals and one assist from Sunday. The Tigers defense was sound, but came up short in crunch time.
After the game, Towson players and coach Shawn Nadelen were stunned by the loss. With each question, Nadelen took extra time to think before he delivered slow responses.
Sunday cried, which was to be expected after such a tough loss.
“These are the ones that hurt the most,” Nadelen said. “I’m proud of our team, proud of our senior class. Obviously, it was a heck of a game with both teams making plays. It was like a boxing match with both teams exchanging blows.”
Maryland 3 2 3 5 1 — 14
Towson 3 4 3 3 0 — 13
Goals: M — Fairman (3), Wisnauskas (3), Bernhardt (2), DeMaio (2), Dubick (2), Rahill, Long; T — McLean (4), Sunday (4), Maloof (2), Ey, Monahan, Bodden. Assists: M — Long (4), Dubick (2), Bernhardt, Fairman, Wisnauskas, Masci. T — Monahan (3), Sunday, McLean. Saves: M — Dolan 15; T — Canto 7