Midfielder Bryan Cole, primarily known as a passer, dominated North Carolina with a hat trick on Sunday afternoon. (Mandatory Credit: Larry French/InsideLacrosse)
From the very beginning of Sunday’s matchup against North Carolina, Maryland lacrosse cruised and didn’t miss a beat.
It ended with a 14-7 rout of the Tar Heels. Maryland outscored North Carolina 9-2 in the opening half, propelling the Terps to an easy win over the Tar Heels in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Midfielder Bryan Cole scored four goals and added an assist while freshman midfielder Connor Kelly registered his career hat trick for the Terps. Cole and Kelly were just two of five Maryland players that recorded multiple points on Sunday.
“Bryan (Cole) has been so important for us,” coach John Tillman said. “I’m happy for him because the first couple years he dealt with some injuries and setbacks that were frustrating for him and us. I think he got a lot of experience last year and came back this year with confidence to be a big part of the offense. We really trust him and he makes good decisions.”
The Terps outshot the Tar Heels 46-41 and Maryland’s 14 goals were a season-high. It brought coach John Tillman’s NCAA quarterfinal record to 4-0.
It will be the fourth trip to Championship Weekend in the last five years for Maryland.
Just 2:04 into the game, Maryland got the scoring started on a complete defensive breakdown by North Carolina. Midfielder Joe LoCascio found Cole unguarded right in front of the cage and Cole potted home his first tally from point-blank range.
Just over a minute later, Kelly put one in the back of the net to give the Terps an early 2-0 lead. The freshman took the pass off the face-off, put on the brakes, and whipped his stick around for a scorcher of a goal.
Coming into Sunday’s game, Kelly only had five points (2, 3). The Avon Old Farms (Conn.) product registered all three assists back on March 14 against Villanova.
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However, midfielder Steve Pontrello responded with a goal of his own with 9:45 remaining in the first quarter. At this point, it appeared that this would be a very close game throughout.
However, things went in the complete other direction. The Tar Heels went a 24:20 goal-less drought that extended late into the third quarter.
“They have so many great offensive weapons that it’s kind of like pick your poison,” defender Casey Ikeda said. “We were able to get them out of their game early on.”
Aside from the Pontrello goal, goalie Kyle Bernlohr didn’t have to even make a save in the first quarter.
LoCascio also continued his hot streak as the senior midfielder registered a goal and three assists on the afternoon. The future member of the Florida Launch scored his lone goal as dodged away from a North Carolina defender and got set and rifled a cannon of a shot past Tar Heels goalie Kieran Burke. Ironically, Burke and LoCascio were teammates at St. Anthony’s (NY) during their high school days.
North Carolina did score five of the final six goals to make the game look a little more competitive than it was.
With the lopsided victory, Maryland will travel to Philadelphia next Saturday for a rematch with Johns Hopkins in the NCAA semifinals. Hopkins advanced with a 16-15 win over Syracuse in Annapolis in the first game on Sunday.
“It’s really tough to say,” Ikeda added. Our goal is to make the Final Four and we got that down. We want to be the last team standing. We’re honored to be there, but there is still some work to be done.”
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