When Maryland finally reached its first men’s basketball Final Four in 2001, the Terps’ opponent was ACC archrival Duke.
Tomorrow, the Terps’ lacrosse team will play in Baltimore in the men’s Final Four for the first time in five years and its opponent is, of course, the Blue Devils.
Maryland and Duke are also meeting in the women’s lacrosse semifinals tonight in Stony Brook, NY, but the difference is that the Terps’ women are the top seeds and won their 10th national title last year.
Duke, the defending national men’s champion, won the regular season matchup 9-8 in overtime in Durham. However, the Terps are riding high now, having beaten the Blue Devils 11-9 in Durham to win the ACC title last month and then knocking off North Carolina and stunning top-seeded Syracuse in the NCAAs.
While Maryland has won 11 national men’s lacrosse titles, the last was authored by coach Buddy Beardmore in 1975 when current coach John Tillman was barely old enough to hold a stick and many fewer colleges fielded lacrosse teams.
The Terps haven’t reached the championship game since 1998 under coach Dick Edell. That followed a similar run for Edell in 1995, their only other appearance in the final since Hall of Famer Beardmore’s last hurrah in 1979.
Rookie coach Tillman is the first Terps coach in memory without Maryland ties. Maybe that’s a good thing since that puts him under a little less pressure than natives Edell and Cottle and College Park grads Beardmore and Dino Mattesich to win for the home folks.
It can’t hurt the Terps’ chances tomorrow that the game will be played at M&T Bank Stadium, where – with local favorite Johns Hopkins having been unexpectedly bounced by Denver in the quarterfinals – they will be greeted like the home team. That will be the case again if Maryland beats Duke and reaches Monday’s final against the winner of the Virginia-Denver matchup.
The Terps are 8-2 in the Free State this season, losing at home to the Tar Heels and the Blue Jays. But those higher-seeded teams are done and Maryland plays on thanks to the quick stick of senior attackman Grant Catalino, whose overtime goal beat Syracuse 6-5. The clutch tally by Catalino – one of 12 Terps to ever score 100 goals — improved Maryland to 12-1 when redshirt freshman goalie Niko Amato allows fewer than 10 goals.
The only schools with more tournament victories than Maryland since the NCAAs were established in 1971 are Hopkins, Syracuse and UVa. The Blue Jays (eight), Orange (11), Cavaliers (three), Princeton (six) and North Carolina (four) have all celebrated multiple championships since Maryland’s last title 36 years ago..
It’s beyond time for the Terps to win it all. While they haven’t played Denver, they’ve already beaten Duke and Virginia. It just feels like Maryland’s year.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.