Maryland stifles Duke, advances to championship

Terps defense smothers Blue Devils in 9-4 win at M&T Bank Stadium

  • Maryland's Drew Snider scores a first-half goal against Duke.
Maryland's Drew Snider scores a first-half goal against… (Baltimore Sun photo by Lloyd…)
May 29, 2011|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

There will be a new men's lacrosse champion this year, and Maryland is eager to fill that role.

The unseeded Terps took another step toward that possibility by defeating fifth-seeded and Atlantic Coast Conference rival Duke, 9-4, in their NCAA tournament semifinal at M&T Bank Stadium Saturday night.

An announced 45,039 -- the sixth-best attendance for the semifinals -- witnessed Maryland (13-4) hit, poke and check the Blue Devils while applying a stranglehold on an offense that had entered the contest as the fifth-most prolific unit in the country.

With the victory, the Terps punched their ticket to their first title game since 1998, when they fell to Princeton, 15-5. Since then, Maryland had been 0-3 in its three previous trips to the Final Four.

The Atlantic Coast Conference earned an All-ACC final after No.7 seed Virginia disposed of No. 6 seed Denver, 14-8, in the first semifinal. It will be the first All-ACC title game since 1986 when North Carolina edged Virginia, 10-9, in overtime.

After limiting top-seeded Syracuse to five goals -- which tied a season low for the Orange -- in a one-goal win in overtime, the Terps held Duke (14-6) to just four goals, which is the team's lowest output in the NCAA tournament.

Duke's vaunted attack of senior Zach Howell and freshmen Jordan Wolf and Christian Walsh -- the team's top three players points-- combined for just two goals and zero assists. Maryland senior defenseman Brett Schmidt shut out Wolf, the team leader in assists (20) and second in both points (51) and goals (31).

The Terps weren't shy about being physical with the Blue Devils.

"Those always are difference-makers throughout a game," said senior attackman Grant Catalino, who scored three goals and dished out a few hits. "Those little plays can swing the momentum either back in your direction or more in your direction. [When] players step up and make those big hits or those physical plays, that's huge for a team. Especially with the crowd behind us, that just magnifies it even more. When you hear that roar after a big hit, that's a heartbreaker for the other team."

Duke sophomore midfielder David Lawson agreed, saying: "They hit us to the ground a lot in the first half. Ultimately, they kind of beat us up, and there wasn't too much we could do about it."

The Terps -- who ranked fourth-best in the nation by surrendering an average of 7.1 goals this season -- also got sensational play from redshirt freshman goalie Niko Amato, who made 13 saves, including three from point-blank range. He turned aside a shot by Howell from in front as time expired in the first quarter and stoned Walsh from six yards out late in the second period.

"He made some great saves early that got them some momentum," Blue Devils redshirt junior midfielder Justin Turri said. "That shifted the momentum and put things in their favor."

Maryland also excelled on faceoffs. Sophomore Curtis Holmes, who entered the contest having won 62.5 percent (198 of 317) of his draws, won 11 of 17, and his play was critical to giving the offense extended possessions against the Blue Devils. Junior midfielder Joe Cummings chipped in two goals and one assist, but senior attackman Ryan Young had a quiet evening with one assist.

A week after the midfield accounted for four goals in the team's upset of Syracuse in the quarterfinals, Maryland again got timely contributions from their midfield. In addition to Cummings, junior Drew Snider and sophomores Kevin Cooper and Holmes each scored once.

With the Terps taking a 5-2 advantage into halftime, Duke got a goal from Howell to open the scoring in the second half with 9:46 left in the third quarter.

But the Terps responded by embarking on a 4-0 run. The first was a byproduct of senior short-stick defensive midfielder Dan Burns' athleticism.

After corralling a rebound of a shot by David Lawson that Amato stopped, Burns faked his way out of a Blue Devils double team, carried the ball into the offensive zone, and found Catalino on a four-on-three break. Catalino faked a pass to sophomore attackman Owen Blye to his right, ducked into the slot and tucked a shot under the crossbar with 4:41 left in the third quarter.

The game opened with Maryland in a small, albeit brief hole. After sophomore David Lawson converted a pass from junior midfielder Robert Rotanz to give Duke a 1-0 lead just 54 seconds into the first quarter, the Terps scored three unanswered goals in 9:27 spanning the first and second periods.

Notes: Blue Devils coach John Danowski confirmed that senior long-stick midfielder C.J. Costabile played with a broken bone in his hand in the past two games that prevented him from facing off. "That didn't help, for sure," Danowski said. ... With 117 career goals, Catalino tied Jim Wilkerson for seventh on the school's all-time scoring list. ... Since 2002, the Terps are 100-21 when allowing nine goals or less. ... Danowski was denied the 300th victory of his career. Danowski is 299-158 in 29 years as a head coach.

A previous version of this story said Terps goalie Niko Amato had 10 saves. He finished with 13 saves.

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