Maryland men’s lacrosse team ends perfect season with national title

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EAST HARTFORD, Conn. –Maryland hadn’t lost a men’s lacrosse game since Memorial Day 2021, so the Terrapins weren’t about to let another season be wasted in their final game.

The top-seeded Terps ended an undefeated season on Monday by edging seventh-seeded Cornell 9-7 to win the program’s fourth NCAA title just a year after their perfect record was shattered in the game of national championship on the same ground.

“I’ve never felt this in my life before,” said senior defenseman Brett Makar. “That kind of feeling is truly indescribable. I’m in tears just thinking about all it took to get back here.

In front of 22,184 fans at Rentschler Field, Maryland goaltender Logan McNaney made 17 saves to cap off a brilliant postseason; he was named the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Anthony DeMaio – the final link in the roster of the Terps’ previous title team in 2017 – had four goals and one assist.

Maryland (18-0) won its second championship in seven title games under coach John Tillman and became the first undefeated champion since Virginia in 2006.

Forward Logan Wisnauskas broke a final record in his final game, securing Maryland’s single-season points record. He had two goals and two assists on Monday and finished with 103 points for the year, surpassing Jared Bernhardt’s mark of 99 set last season.

Maryland has won 35 of its last 36 games dating to the 2020 season, with the only loss coming in last year’s championship game against Virginia.

CJ Kirst scored twice for the Big Red (14-5), which became the first team to keep Maryland within 10 goals since Johns Hopkins in the 2019 Big Ten tournament. The two-goal margin of victory was also the smallest of the Terps season.

“Hands down the toughest game we’ve had all year,” Tillman said.

It was a fitting end to the tournament for McNaney, a third-year player who took over at the start of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and improved to 35-1 as a starter. He made a career-high 19 saves in Saturday’s 13-8 semifinal loss to Princeton, then blocked Cornell for much of Monday’s game.

In four playoff games, McNaney made 61 saves and allowed 25 goals for a .709 save percentage.

“I knew I just had to come in and see the ball and save the ball,” McNaney said.

Kirst’s first goal put Cornell up 1-0, making it only the fifth game Maryland hasn’t followed this season. But the Terps quickly rectified the situation.

DeMaio, a sixth-year senior who wore a redshirt in Maryland’s 2017 title chase, recorded a natural hat-trick to close out the first quarter and put Maryland ahead 4-1, then assisted on the Owen Prybylski’s long pole goal after a quick restart two minutes after the second. .

Terps led 7-2 at half-time, and Wisnauskas helped extend the lead early in the second half, scoring once and assisting on Jonathan Donville’s goal to make it 9-2.

“They do a lot of great things on tape, but we thought we had the ability to beat this team,” Cornell coach Connor Buczek said. “That being said, they were awesome. They handled our attack very well. I think our defense played as well as it could.

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Leading by seven, Maryland tried to hold on while tiring after a quick turnaround on Saturday. The Terps found themselves with a season-high 22 turnovers and missed five clearances, but the cushion was enough to avoid too much tension in the final minutes.

Cornell’s John Piatelli scored with 35.3 seconds left to cut the Big Red’s deficit to two, but the Terps won the ensuing faceoff and fifth-year senior Bubba Fairman ran out of time to trigger the celebration.

“We expected it to be tough and obviously we built a little cushion and hung on,” Tillman said. “I don’t know what would have happened if there had been another term.”

Surely Maryland would rather not entertain the possibility that things ended like last year, when they suffered an abysmal 17-16 loss. The setback prompted the Terps to take a professional approach to every game this season, and their milestones were met with muted celebrations – until Monday, when cheery players created the confetti version of the Snow Angels after the buzzer final.

A team that has gone through most of the season without many serious challenges has sparked discussion about its place in history. This is an impossible debate given rule changes, such as the advent of the shot clock, and advances in equipment.

But one thing is indisputable: Maryland’s NCAA title trophies from 1973, 1975 and 2017 have company.

“People want to say we’re the best team ever, we’re national champions,” DeMaio said. “And that’s all that matters.”

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