CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA. — — All week long, the criticism was loud, and at times distasteful.
But on a chilly afternoon in front of a crowd of nearly 10,500 fans at Scott Stadium, the University of Maryland sent a message to the rest of college lacrosse that its season is far from over, and the Terps will be serious contenders in the second half of the season heading into the post season.
Maryland out-fought and out-hustled Virginia Saturday. The Terps shut down the Cavaliers' highly successful offense, including Virginia's talented midfield. Maryland goalie Niko Amato was superb in the second half, and the Cavaliers spent the day without their All-American midfielder, Shamel Bratton, who was suspended for violating team rules again.
Final score: No. 9 Maryland 12, No. 7 Virginia, 7.
And this was no contest.
"We all stepped up. Everyone lifted up their level of play," said Maryland midfielder Joe Cummings, who shared high scoring honors with teammate and fellow middie John Haus (four goals each). "In every area of the game, everyone elevated their play."
The Terps (7-2 overall, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) had a tough week after blowing a big first quarter lead and losing to North Carolina at home last Saturday. Everybody seemed to be taking shots at the Terps, from the national media to the arm-chair coaches on the internet.
But there was little to criticize about Saturday's dismantling of Virginia (7-3, 0-1). Led by three goals from Cummings, Maryland blitzed the Cavaliers 4-0 in the third quarter for an 8-5 lead after the period. Haus opened the fourth period with a goal before two minutes had elapsed, and attackman Owen Blye scored three minutes later to put Maryland ahead, 10-5, with 10 minutes and 44 seconds left in the game.
Virginia is famous for making some of the game's most fantastic runs, but the Cavaliers couldn't build any momentum of offense because Terps long poles Ryder Bohlander, Max Schmidt and Brett Schmidt were pushing the Cavaliers offense out of the restraining box, and knocking down passes as if they were the intended targets.
Virginia converted on only one of five extra man situations.
"I'm very happy for our guys," said Maryland coach John Tillman. "We came out strong last week, and then it kind of unraveled. I was not happy with the way we handled adversity. This is my first year and I'm still getting to know some of these guys. We talked about bouncing back this week, and not letting it eat away at us. For our guys, I thought it was important for us to have a strong performance."
Virginia had a 5-4 lead at the half, but had no answer for Maryland's energy or offense in the second half. The Cavaliers couldn't contain Terps attackman Ryan Young, who had two goals, but ripped Virginia's defense apart with four assists, all of those coming to cutters at the top of the crease.
Amato finished with 12 saves, including one against midfielder John Haldy from point blank range with 37 seconds left in the third period that seemed to take the life out of Virginia.
"Niko made some big saves, and when he does that, he gives us more confidence," said Tillman.
The Terps coaching staff also had a big day. Besides getting Maryland ready to play this week and exposing a slow reacting Virginia defense, the Terps adjusted in the second half by moving their long pole and defensive midfielders up in the box, forcing Virginia midfielders away from their strong hand and longer passes.
Plus, it didn't hurt that the Cavaliers didn't have Bratton. His twin brother Rhamel played and had two goals. But Shamel is the better of the two, and the Cavaliers missed his speed, which he has used to score 17 goals this season. Virginia coach Dom Starsia said Shamel Bratton was suspended indefinitely. Both brothers were suspended earlier this season for violation of team rules, and missed the Cavaliers' game against Stony Brook on Feb. 26th.
"He is really, really dynamic," said Tillman of Shamel Bratton. "You have to take into consideration his speed and ability to break down defenses. We heard rumors as early as Thursday about who was and who wasn't going to play. But it really didn't matter because it didn't change much what we were going to do, and you never know what is rumor and what is reality."