Maryland men’s lacrosse wins national championship

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EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Maryland had not lost a men’s lacrosse game since Memorial Day 2021, so the Terrapins weren’t about to allow another season to be spoiled in their final game.

The top-seeded Terps completed an undefeated season Monday by fending off seventh-seeded Cornell, 9-7, to secure the program’s fourth NCAA title just a year after their perfect record was spoiled in the national championship game on the same field.

“I’ve never felt this in my life before,” senior defenseman Brett Makar said. “This kind of feeling is really indescribable. I’m getting teared up just thinking about how much it took to get back here.”

In front of 22,184 at Rentschler Field, Maryland goalie Logan McNaney made 17 saves to cap a brilliant postseason; he was named the NCAA tournament’s most outstanding player. Anthony DeMaio — the last link on the roster to the Terps’ previous title team in 2017 — had four goals and an assist.

Maryland (18-0) claimed its second championship in seven title-game appearances under Coach John Tillman and became the first undefeated champion since Virginia in 2006.

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

Maryland has won 35 of its past 36 games dating from the 2020 season, with the lone defeat 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 to fewer than 10 goals since Johns Hopkins in the 2019 Big Ten tournament. The two-goal margin of victory was also the Terps’ smallest of the season.

“By far the hardest game we had all year,” Tillman said.

It was a fitting end to the tournament for McNaney, a third-year player who took over early in 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 defeat of Princeton, then stymied Cornell for much of the game Monday.

In four postseason 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 this only the fifth Maryland game trailed in this season. But the Terps soon rectified the situation.

DeMaio, a sixth-year senior who redshirted during Maryland’s 2017 title run, recorded a natural hat trick to close the first quarter and put Maryland ahead 4-1, then assisted on long pole Owen Prybylski’s goal off a quick restart two minutes into the second .

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

“They do a lot of things great on tape, but we thought we had the ability to beat that team,” Cornell Coach Connor Buczek said. “With that being said, they were awesome. They managed our offense really well. I thought our defense played as well as they possibly could.”

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Leading by seven, Maryland tried to hold on while tiring after a quick turnaround from Saturday. The Terps wound up with a season-high 22 turnovers and bunged five clears, 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 the clock to set off the celebration.

“We expected it to be hard and obviously built a little bit of a cushion and hung on,” Tillman said. “I’m not sure what would have happened if there was another quarter.”

Maryland would certainly rather not consider the possibility that things might have ended up like last year, when it suffered an excruciating 17-16 loss. That setback spurred the Terps toward a businesslike approach to each game this season, and their milestones were met with muted celebrations — until Monday, when gleeful players created the confetti version of snow angels after the final buzzer.

A team that plowed through most of the season without many serious challenges prompted a discussion about its place in history. It is an impossible debate to settle given rule changes, such as the advent of the shot clock, and equipment advances.

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

“Whether 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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