Former Maryland goalie Brian Dougherty ('96) joins the Terps' post-game celebration Monday after a 9-6 win over Ohio State in the NCAA championship game at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

With Maryland Title, Legion of Former Terps Finally Exhale

Brian Dougherty, widely considered the greatest goalie in University of Maryland men’s lacrosse history, has attended every NCAA tournament championship weekend appearance by the Terrapins since he graduated in 1996.

Before catching a flight to Boston on the morning of Memorial Day, Dougherty had reunited with scores of Maryland lacrosse alumni at 10 previous final four weekends, only to watch the Terps come up short every time — including four times in the NCAA title game over the past six seasons.

The bad taste from those recent trips — most painfully last year’s gut-wrenching, title game defeat against North Carolina in overtime — caused Dougherty to delay making his way to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Dougherty decided to hang back at home in Philadelphia on Saturday. He wanted to make sure the Terps eliminated Denver and its legendary coach, Bill Tierney, in the semifinals, before heading north.

“The last two years [including a 10-5 loss to Denver in the 2015 final], it’s been the worst feeling ever for me,” Dougherty said. “I thought about not going up this time. I caught myself thinking, ‘How are we going to lose this year?’”

“I felt 42 years of frustration just evaporate.” — Brian Dougherty ('96)

Maryland outlasted Denver 9-8 in an NCAA semifinal in which both sides had acrobatic goals waved off due to crease violations in the final minutes.

“After Saturday, I decided there was no way I wasn’t going,” Dougherty said. “I had to be there.”

Dougherty wound up on Maryland’s pregame sideline Monday, where a few hours later he witnessed a blast of exhilarating history up close. And once Maryland nailed down its 9-6 victory over Ohio State to win its third NCAA title — and the school’s first since 1975 — Dougherty basked in the moment and grabbed at it, too.

While the Terps released their pent-up emotions with a pile-on celebration on the field, Dougherty retrieved the game ball. He joined the Terps by claiming a piece of a goal net. He hugged every player he could reach.

“As soon as the final whistle blew, I felt more relief than anything,” Dougherty said. “I felt 42 years of frustration just evaporate.”

Dougherty estimates he was among about 200 Maryland lacrosse alumni who staged a raucous postgame tailgate party in the Gillette parking lot, where beer and champagne were consumed and sprayed in hefty amounts.

A makeshift runway welcomed numerous members of the team that will be remembered as conquering heroes. The 2017 Terrapins ended a championship drought that had stretched across five decades and had begun early in America’s post-Vietnam era, when disco was beginning to exert its temporary hold in U.S. pop culture.

The drought stretched back to the days of Frank Urso, Maryland’s legendary midfielder. Urso, 63, who coaches the boys’ lacrosse team at Phladelphia’s Garnet Valley High School, played in four straight NCAA title games from 1973-76, when the NCAA tournament was in its infancy.

Urso tasted sweet victory twice, lastly in the 20-13 victory over Navy in 1975 at Johns Hopkins’ Homewood Field. Little did Urso know then that he would be nearly eligible for Medicare coverage by the time the Terps would win it all again.

The only thing missing from Urso’s satisfying weekend was his attendance at Gillette Stadium. Since he was unable to secure a flight back to Philly in time to accompany his high school team to its first-round state playoff game Tuesday, Urso was unable to continue his tradition of attending every final four with Maryland involved.

“I was texting back and forth with the guys [from the ’75 team] so much that it felt like I was there anyway,” said Urso, who watched every moment of Monday’s win in high definition at home. “I’d be lying if I said there weren’t tears in the eyes. I just took it all in at the end and sat there thinking, ‘My gosh, finally!’

“The way Coach [John] Tillman has gotten us there [almost] every year is pretty amazing. You always go into [the final] feeling confident, but you know it might not work out,” Urso added. “Last year I thought we were the better team. I remember sitting there at the end with my mouth open, not believing what had just happened and wondering if this was ever going to happen.

“The angst this year for me was the Denver game. I felt whoever won that game was going to win it all.”

Maryland got past Denver in the semifinals and was in control for most of the championship game against Ohio State. But then the Buckeyes scored two goals to cut the Terps’ lead to 8-6 with 2:11 remaining.

“I was getting texts saying ‘Are you kidding me?’ and ‘We’ve seen this before,’” Urso said. “I felt pretty confident we were winning that game.”

Bob Boneillo, who graduated from Maryland in 1980 and held the school record for career points until Matt Rambo broke it on April 29 in a blowout win over Hopkins — with Boneillo in attendance in College Park — watched the historic victory from his Long Island home.

Unlike Urso, Boneillo just missed a taste of championship glory at Maryland, which was the sight of the Terps’ 15-9 loss to Hopkins in the NCAA final in 1979 at the end of Boneillo’s junior season. Back then, no one was talking about a championship drought in a tournament that was only nine seasons old.

Like Urso, Boneillo felt that Maryland, with its versatile and grizzled playoff veterans leading the way, would take care of business at long last on Memorial Day against an Ohio State team experiencing a final four for the first time. When the Terps’ defense asserted itself by giving Maryland a 5-2 lead at halftime, Boneillo felt the big moment was at hand.

“In the middle of the second quarter, I told my wife, ‘We’ve got this one.’ Everyone was so keyed in on defense. She said, ‘Don’t get cocky,’” Boneillo said. “Even when they cut it to 8-6, I thought we were fine. I’ve been on cloud nine all day.

“That loss in ’79 still hurts. It’s a tough thing for players to handle. It takes a while to get over,” Boneillo added. “When it hit 10 years, I thought enough was enough. I can’t believe it took another 32. I always feel bad for the kids. Last year’s loss was the hardest to handle. Now, I don’t have to listen to all of that crap from my friends who went to North Carolina or Hopkins about how Maryland can’t win the big one.”


Tewaaraton finalist Matt Rambo embraces Bob Boneillo ('80) after Rambo broke Boneillo's school scoring record April 29 in a blowout win over Johns Hopkins.

“I was so proud of those guys, I had goose bumps. I woke up [Tuesday] with more goose bumps,” said former Maryland attackman Joe Walters, who watched the Terps make history from his home in Rochester, N.Y.

Walters graduated in 2006 after a stellar career that produced a school record in goals scored — now owned by Rambo. Walters went to three final fours, yet never reached the championship game under former coach Dave Cottle, who did not reach championship weekend after 2006 and was replaced by Tillman in 2010.

“Even though I wasn’t on that field [on Monday], I felt like we [alumni] all had something to do with it,” Walters said. “I went to final fours in College Park as a kid. That was part of the reason I fell in love with Maryland and jumped on the chance to go there when Coach Cottle offered me a scholarship.

“It still hurts to think about how close we came when I was there. Last year was hard to swallow. I’m just so happy we finally reached that place again.”

Cottle, now the general manager of the Chesapeake Bayhawks, watched every bounce of Monday’s title game alone at his home. He regularly communicates with Tillman to this day.

“Everybody who has ever worn the uniform or stood on the sidelines at Maryland wanted to get that done,” Cottle said. “The coolest thing about the Maryland lacrosse program is the players don’t just make friends for four years. It’s for life. They wear all of the wins and losses on their sleeves. Everybody who has been part of this [drought] just wanted it to be over with.”

Dougherty could not agree more with that sentiment.

“I don’t want to hear about 1975 ever again,” he said.