PHOTO BY RICH BARNES

Maryland took down Ohio State 9-6 on Monday afternoon to win its first national title since 1975.

Mission Accomplished: Maryland Ends 42-Year Title Drought


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — There was still about a minute to play after Maryland midfielder Tim Rotanz fired into an empty net for an insurance goal.

For all of his team’s in-the-moment discipline, sophomore defenseman Curtis Corley offered a preview of the celebration the Terrapins were about to enjoy.

“When you look back at the film and see Rotanz throw that ball in, I actually threw my stick in the air,” Corley said. “It landed in the goal. I tossed it in the air as high as I could. I was already screaming.”

It was ecstasy and relief, joy and perspective, glee and appreciation. Top-seeded Maryland, a 9-6 victor against third-seeded Ohio State in Monday’s NCAA final at Gillette Stadium, was as equipped to savor a title as much as any champion.

Sure, there was the befuddling 42-year title drought the Terrapins (16-3) brought to an end. But for this team and this group, there was the disappointment of falling on the final day of the season in back-to-back years that would never entirely evaporate.

Rotanz scored three goals and goalie Dan Morris made 11 saves for Maryland, which dominated possession over the final three quarters as it finished off its first championship run since 1975.

“This team had a mission all year,” defensive midfielder Nick Manis said. “We just had that mindset that we wanted to get it done.  There was no other option. There was no option to lose. That wasn’t even in our mind. If we played our game, we were very confident and it worked out.”

Maryland’s reputation through the years usually rested on its defensive prowess. In that sense, it was appropriate the Terps completed the weekend with only 14 goals allowed.

Defenseman Tim Muller, the tournament's most outstanding player, silenced both Denver’s Connor Cannizzaro (one goal) and Ohio State’s Tre Leclaire (one goal and one assist). Corley swallowed up Denver’s Austin French and the Buckeyes’ Jack Jasinski. Bryce Young held Ohio State attackman Eric Fannell scoreless on seven shots. And long pole Nick Brozowski played perhaps his best game, collecting five groundballs.

“I think we just played our best two games of the season,” Muller said. “We saved then for last two games of the year, thank God.”


“I think we just played our best two games of the season. We saved then for last two games of the year, thank God.” - Maryland defenseman Tim Muller


Goalie Tom Carey made 13 saves to keep Ohio State (16-5) within striking distance. But the Buckeyes simply didn’t have the ball enough to threaten Maryland, which controlled possession for more than 30 of the game’s final 45 minutes.

It brought an end to the deepest tournament run in Ohio State’s history, and perhaps set the table for the Buckeyes (who set a school record for victories) to entrench themselves among the sport’s elite in the years to come.

“I couldn't be more happy and have more pride to finish it out here with these guys,” Carey said. “I guess pride is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but if you look in that locker room today, there is just so much of it and there still is. I think to finish this way, and obviously it wasn't the way we wanted, but there is a lot of pride left in that locker room that I know those guys are going to carry on the next couple of years.”

If there was a theme for the last two weeks for Maryland — beyond chasing its elusive championship — it was running into a gauntlet of faceoff men throughout the postseason.

Jon Garino Jr. came off the bench to get the better of Albany’s TD Ierlan in the quarterfinals. Austin Henningsen effectively battled Denver star Trevor Baptiste to a near-even split in the semifinals.

Then Garino dominated Ohio State’s Jake Withers on Monday, winning 10 of 14 draws after Henningsen struggled in the first quarter.

Just like that, Maryland — which didn’t have a faceoff advantage in its final six regular-season games — had gone 37 of 70 against three of the country’s top four faceoff aces.

“We know everyone we faced in the tournament was the three best guys according to everybody else,” Garino said. “Everybody was doubting us, so we just went in with a chip on our shoulder trying to prove people wrong. I think that’s a pretty powerful thing when you bring that to the table.”








It was the final part of a process that saw Maryland turn its most obvious weaknesses into strengths. A team blessed with a sound defensive scheme and a strong starting six on offense, the Terps shored up not only their faceoffs late in the season but also their play in the cage.

Morris was named to the all-tournament team, along with Muller, Rotanz, midfielder Connor Kelly, attackmen Dylan Maltz and Matt Rambo.

“They’re the most complete team we've played all season,” Ohio State coach Nick Myers said. “I like to think that we've played a lot of good lacrosse teams. They just top to bottom -- especially on the offensive end, they're extremely balanced. They're very well-coached. They're unselfish.”

It capped the careers of several senior stars, including Rambo. He exits College Park with the school records for goals (155) and points (257), and could add another piece of hardware Thursday when the Tewaaraton Award winner is announced in Washington.

Yet he’ll probably most appreciate a championship effectively sealed when Rotanz scored with 58.1 seconds to play.

“When he scored, I was so happy,” Rambo said. “Three goals they had to get in one minute, it’s really hard to do. I just looked at [Colin] Heacock and Maltz and then I almost started crying on the field. It was unbelievable.”




PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Matt Rambo leaves College Park with the school record for goals (155) and points (257).


The triumph provided a breakthrough for Tillman, who guided Maryland to the national title game on four previous occasions. Only once in that span — a year ago — were the Terps the best team in the country from start to finish, but they still managed to reach Memorial Day.

When he arrived at Maryland, the Terps had not advanced to the semifinals in the previous four seasons and were 12 years removed from their last national title game appearance.

“All those seniors took a chance on us,” Tillman said of this year’s departing group, which began committing to Maryland not long after he arrived in June 2010. “I was 20-19 at Harvard. I didn’t exactly kill it up there. Matt took a chance. Could have gone to Carolina or Virginia. I’m thankful for that. That’s what makes this senior class special, that they bought into what we were hoping we were going to be.”

It took time, and along the way Maryland endured its share of agony in May. Much of this year’s roster endured a forgettable loss to Denver in 2015 — a game that played out in similar fashion to Monday’s, only Maryland was on the other side of it — and a crushing overtime defeat against North Carolina last year.

Those near misses only enhanced Maryland’s ability to enjoy this title.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Muller, who joins Duke faceoff man Brendan Fowler (2013) as the only most outstanding players in tournament history not to record a goal, assist or save in the final four. “To have this taste in your mouth the past few years with losing, and having everyone here supporting us with all the alumni and do it with these guys, it’s surreal.”

Added Rotanz: “I couldn’t believe it. I thought there was another quarter coming or something. You don’t really believe it. You look at the stands and there’s alumni that I played with last year, two years ago, three years ago that are crying. It’s an unbelievable experience. You look at everyone who played so hard for this program and set such a platform for us to succeed, it’s awesome to see them.”

And now, the Terps won’t hear about a title drought or falling a game short. Instead, the journey to the summit is complete, and this Maryland team joins its 1973 and 1975 iterations as the program’s NCAA champions.

“There’s a lot of tension and there’s a lot of expectations you have to meet,” Kelly said. “And obviously we met them.”