With an epic finish in the evening’s first semifinal, there was room for another dazzling conclusion.
Unfortunately for the Maryland Terrapins men’s lacrosse team, it was Notre Dame that created their own storybook ending. Midfielder Mike Chanenchuk attempted to split two Fighting Irish defenders and lost possession of the ball. Notre Dame headed down the field in transition and star attackman Matt Kavanagh deposited the game-winner with 6.5 seconds left in the game. The Irish went on to complete the comeback and defeated the Terps 6-5 in the semifinal round of the ACC tournament on Friday evening.
It was the third time in ACC history that both semifinal games were decided by a single goal. It was the first time that it occurred since 2003.
Of the 11 goals, every single goal was scored by a different player.
“Unfortunately, you’ve got to score more than five goals when you get 37 shots,” Maryland coach John Tillman said. “That’s a credit to their goalie and I think that’s something that we need to work on, obviously some of our shooting and we just have to play smarter from beginning to end.”
Transition defense was also an issue for the Terps.
“Our defense played a great game,” Maryland goalie Niko Amato said. “There’s obviously room for improvement, but we communicated well and trusted our gameplan.”
Maryland may not have had an overwhelming start on the scoreboard, but they did make good use of their first quarter possessions. The Terps have nine total shots (five that landed on net) while the Fighting Irish had six (only one of which found Amato).
The Terps did get some production from unlikely players and that goes without saying how much depth Tillman and his coaching staff have.
With 2:10 remaining in the opening quarter, freshman Tim Rotanz began the scoring as he found the back of the cage on an unassisted goal just to the left of Notre Dame goalie Conor Kelly. Rotanz only had five points (two goals & three assists) all season while appearing in eight games (seven starts). The New York native’s tally was his first since scoring twice in his collegiate debut against Stony Brook on March 8.
Upon entering the second quarter, Maryland scored a pair of goals on very similar shots.
At the 12:23 mark of the second quarter, freshman Matt Rambo made his way to the heart of the paint after dodging a defender by going to the left hand and snapped a shot past Kelly. Maryland took a 2-0 lead, much like they did against Notre Dame in last Saturday’s game in South Bend.
Just two minutes later, midfielder Joe LoCasio made a similar move that Rambo had previously scored on. The junior midfielder dodged his man by going to his left hand and potted a goal to give the Terps a 3-0 lead. Maryland seemed to be well in control of the game.
Amato was tested heavily to start out the third quarter and the senior was up to the challenge. The LaSalle College High School product stopped shots from Bobby Gray and Sergio Perkovic to start off the second half, gobbling them up without allowing a rebound.
Freshman Connor Cannizzaro continued the trend of dodging and transferring hands and netted himself an unassisted goal in the high right corner at the 11:15 mark of the third quarter. The goal comes just six days after the New York native scored a hat trick in Maryland’s win over these same Irish and gave the Terps a 4-1 lead.
That was the only instance where Cannizzaro was able to be effective, despite having four shots on net.
Notre Dame midfielder Nick Ossello found a wide-open John Sciosica in front of the crease and Amato got a piece of the shot, but not enough to keep it out of the cage. Just three minutes after Maryland had taken a three-goal lead, Notre Dame trimmed the deficit to two goals at 4-2.
Notre Dame’s Jim Marlatt found the back of the cage with 3:17 left in the third quarter on a bouncing shot that fooled Amato.
The fourth quarter was where everything went awry for the Terps.
With 13:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, Irish attackman Eddie Lubowicki took advantage of the Terps being a man down. He scored on a shot from the side of the cage after defender Casey Ikeda committed a cross-check. The goal tied the game at four and Maryland had surrendered back-to-back tallies to the Irish.
However, Maryland answered like they had so many times before.
Attackman Jay Carlson cultivated a beautiful pass to find a wide-open Rustin Bryant in front for the go-ahead goal. With 9:31 left, Maryland took the 5-4 lead. Maryland had the man advantage thanks to an illegal body check by Notre Dame’s Stephen O’Hara, who leveled LoCasio as he let a shot go.
Notre Dame’s Conor Doyle scored a diving goal just to the left of Amato to tie the game with 8:30 remaining. Doyle has a knack for getting behind the cage and working his way in front, where he can complete highlight reel goals on a moment’s notice.
Despite the loss, Maryland still has plenty to hang their hat on.
“I think those guys really dug in defensively,” Tillman said. “Our six-on-six defense was terrific. I thought the guys really executed the gameplan well and I thought Niko (Amato) was terrific. Even against a team that rides very well, I thought we cleared the ball very well.”
The Terps also had a huge advantage in ground balls with a 30-14 edge in the category. They were able to keep many possessions alive, including one in the final two minutes where Bryant turned the ball over but was able to knock to it away from a defender and keep the play alive for Maryland.
Maryland has one final regular season game on May 3 when they host Navy at Byrd Stadium.
NOTES – While he didn’t play the entire game due to a hit that he took in the second quarter, midfielder Mike Chanenchuk had his 35-game point streak snapped on Friday night. It wasn’t all bad for the Terps top scorer as he was named as a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, which is given to the top player in collegiate lacrosse.