The Maryland lacrosse team has fell just short of a national title on multiple occasions during the John Tillman era.
However, the Terrapins are headed to Championship Weekend for the third consecutive season and are the team to beat this time around.
Maryland hasn’t had much difficulty with their first two opponents in Quinnipiac and Syracuse. The Terps topped the Bobcats 13-6 and the Orange 13-7 to put themselves into the national semifinals next weekend in Philadelphia.
While the Quinnipiac victory was impressive, it was expected. On the other hand, Syracuse came out of the rugged ACC and had the firepower to upend Maryland.
Tim Barber, Dylan Donahue, Nick Mariano, and Sergio Salcido. Those are just some of the names that had the potential to subdue the Terps.
However, goalie Kyle Bernlohr had a better group playing in front of him.
Bernlohr was phenomenal all afternoon as he recorded 15 saves. Eight of those stops came in the first half when the Orange kept coming at him despite trailing by a rather large deficit.
After surrendering a goal to Barber early in the first quarter, Bernlohr really clamped down and had an excellent performance. He stopped shots from point-blank range and didn’t seem phased by anything that Syracuse was throwing towards the cage.
Over a 30-second stretch midway through the opening quarter, Bernlohr stood tall and showed that he could stop anything.
First, Donahue was able to blow by long pole Mac Pons and release a perfectly timed shot at Bernlohr. The Maryland netminder knocked it away without a rebound as to thwart that scoring chance.
Just seconds later, Nick Weston had the ball behind the cage and kept trying to dodge around Isaiah Davis-Allen. Weston was finally able to somewhat shake off Davis-Allen despite nearly falling down. Weston still shot one from right in front of the cease, but Bernlohr made a remarkable stick save to keep it at a 1-1 game.
While Syracuse did get a pair of quality shots off in this short time frame, Maryland’s defense still displayed great defensive pressure. It was a long defensive stand for the Terps and Davis-Allen has to be credited for laying the check on Weston, which increased the degree of difficulty of the shot.
Tillman’s group has hung their hats on their defense and goaltending quite a bit during his tenure. However, this may be the most stout of a group that he’s had in College Park.
Perhaps the biggest reason why Maryland may be hoisting the trophy on Monday is their offensive depth.
The Terps possess a mind-numbing top attack unit that features Colin Heacock (37 goals & nine assists) and Matt Rambo (39 & 24). In fact, Rambo became the first Terp to record 60 points in a single season since Joe Walters accomplished the same feat back in 2006.
Heacock brings a pure goal-scoring mentality while Rambo is just as comfortable setting up his teammates as he is fighting through contact and scoring goals. Rambo continued his torrid pace as he recorded a team-high six points (four & two) against the Orange.
Maryland also has three top midfielders that are sensational in Bryan Cole, Connor Kelly, and Henry West. The trio has combined for 60 goals on the season and they’re arguably the backbone of Maryland’s offensive arsenal.
However, secondary scoring is the main difference between this year’s team and the Terp teams of the past.
Midfielders Lucas Gradinger and Pat Young along with attackmen Dylan Maltz and Tim Rotanz, stabilize an equally talented scoring unit for Maryland. Maltz and Young both have had success at other stops before really finding their stride in College Park.
In years past, Maryland had a few talented attackmen and midfielders, but were hard pressed to find scoring if those players aren’t finding the back of the cage. The Terps didn’t have Gradinger and Rotanz a season ago and could’ve used the extra scoring punch against Denver.
Gradinger and Rotanz have added 15 goals and 10 assists this season. It may not seem like a lot, but for your eighth and ninth scoring options, that’s extremely productive.
Simply put, when your secondary players are as talented as Maryland’s are, there’s few teams that can keep up for 60 minutes. Couple that with a phenomenal defense and a brick wall in net and there’s no reason why this is a team that can’t win a national title.