Memorial Day hasn’t been kind to coach John Tillman and the Maryland men’s lacrosse team.
On Monday, Maryland fell 10-5 to Denver in the championship game.
For the third time in the past five years, Tillman and the Terrapins came up just short of winning a national championship. Maryland hasn’t won a title since 1975.
“Obviously, it was not the end that we wanted,” Tillman said. “I thought Denver outplayed us in a lot of facets. Yet that wasn’t due to the effort. I’m really proud of this group. I’m more proud of this group than any group I’ve ever been a part of.”
Attackman Matt Rambo had a strong showing once again as the Glenside (Pa.) native registered two goals and an assist on Monday. That put Rambo at nine points during Championship Weekend, earning him a spot on the All-Tournament team.
“We certainly like our attackmen – Jay Carlson is a really good finisher, and Matt Rambo is a really good player,” Tillman added. “We like Dylan Maltz and Colin Heacock, but if you have polls on those guys you are comfortable. When you see a team like Carolina with Sankey and Bitter, I’m not sure you ever feel comfortable. So we weren’t the fastest team. That’s just kind of who we were.”
Goalie Kyle Bernlohr and long-stick midfielder Matt Neufeldt also were selected to the All-Tournament team.
”They (Denver) were great today,” midfielder Bryan Cole said. “They obviously had a game plan coming into it. They executed it well. And that was that. I thought they were coached up very well.”
Denver take control of the game from the opening face-off as midfielder Trevor Baptiste was awarded control of the opening draw.
The Pioneers got the scoring started just 40 seconds into the game as attackman Wesley Berg found the back of the net. Berg went on to have five goals on the afternoon, which resulted in being named the MVP of the tournament.
Berg added another goal with 10:42 remaining in the first quarter as he dodged midfielder Adam DiMillo for the easy tally.
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Maryland did manage to get on the board early on, taking some of the wind out of Denver’s sails.
Rambo provided a quick pick and attackman Colin Heacock made his way to the front of the cage and scored with 9:19 left in the opening quarter to cut the Denver lead to 2-1. Heacock finished the 2015 season with 19 goals.
After a pair of Denver goals to end the first quarter, Rambo made his presence felt. The local product simply ripped one past goalie Ryan LaPlante to cut the Pioneer lead to 4-2.
LaPlante ultimately was the reason for many of Maryland’s goals not finding the back of the net. The Fort Collins (Co.) native stopped 13 shots at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday.
“I want to make sure we give credit to Ryan LaPlante,” Tillman said. “He played great. But he was good high and we kept talking about trying to change our levels, and it’s easier said than done sometimes because you get the ball and sometimes you fall back on your instincts.”
Midfielder Erik Adamson found the back of the net when defender Casey Ikeda fell down and Adamson blew by defender Tim Muller. Adamson’s tally extended Denver’s lead to 5-2.
Cole got the ball from Rambo behind the net and cut the opposite way in front, slicing Denver’s lead to 5-3 with 3:46 left in the first half.
While the first half didn’t exactly go Maryland’s way, there were a lot of positives to take from the opening half.
Despite trailing 5-3 at the break, it was closely contested game. Maryland and Denver both had nine shots on goal apiece while also each having 11 ground balls. Baptiste did win six of the 10 face-offs against midfielder Charlie Raffa.
However, shots just weren’t finding the back of the net.
”At the end of the quarters, we were getting some of the shots from the spots that we wanted,” Cole added. “We kind of had a game plan in terms of shooting. We got away from it at times. At times we were able to stick to it. But you gotta give credit where credit’s due. Their goalie did great today. He made a lot of saves, whether it being tight or on the perimeter, just did a really good job today.”
A pair of goals from attackman Zach Miller and midfielder Colin Woolford to start off the second half with a 7-3 lead.
Despite being pushed into the crease by midfielder Christian Thomas, Rambo put one in for the Terps to cut the Denver lead to 8-4 with 5:55 left in the third quarter.
Attackman Jay Carlson did add a goal with 32.6 seconds remaining to reach the final verdict of 10-5.
The face-off battle was expected to be where Maryland might lose the game, but Raffa held his own as he won 9 of the 19 face-offs throughout the game.
However, the Terps did turn the ball over eight times, including multiple times when they had just gotten possession away from the Pioneers. Bernlohr did stand tall once again as he turned away 10 shots on many long possessions by Denver.
The season may not have ended the way Maryland would’ve wanted, but the Terps had a phenomenal year, especially considering the amount of talent that they lost.
”I’m so proud of everybody on our team because I believe we had a whole team effort and that’s what drove us to get to this point,” defender Matt Dunn said. “We might not have capitalized when we would have liked to have today, but getting to this point wasn’t easy and it just doesn’t happen.”
With players like Heacock, midfielder Connor Kelly, Rambo, and midfielder Henry West returning, Maryland will most certainly be a strong team in the Big Ten in 2016.
“If you’re an alum or you’re from the state of Maryland, I don’t know how you couldn’t be proud of just the grit, the heart, the resolve these guys showed all year,” Tillman proclaimed.
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