COLLEGE PARK – Just like last year, the Maryland men’s lacrosse team will open the NCAA tournament with an opening game on the road.
As the unseeded Terps (9-5) prepare for their first round match up with the #7 seed Lehigh Mountain Hawks (14-2, Patriot League) on Sunday in Bethlehem, Pa., they know they can learn from last year’s NCAA Tournament run.
The Terps had to go on the road to Chapel Hill, N.C., to face the #8 seed Tar Heels in 2011’s opening round. The team eventually reached the championship game before falling to Virginia.
“Who doesn’t want a home game in the first round of the playoffs?” long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt asked. “Either way, we’re in the tournament.”
Senior attack Joe Cummings, the Terps’ leading scorer (27 goals, 14 assists) said Maryland will advance if they can play, “Maryland Lacrosse.”
“That’s playing focused, playing tough, playing selfless, playing with passion, and just playing as a family. If we can do that I think we’re one of the best teams in the country,” he said.
Although the team is younger than last year, players gained valuable experience on their run to the NCAA final last year.
Reminiscent of last year, a loss to Colgate on Saturday likely cost the Terps a first-round home game.
Maryland couldn’t hold onto a 9-7 lead late in the third quarter as Colgate rallied to beat Maryland 13-11 in the regular season finale.
“That was, I think, one of the worst games we’ve played…It brings us down to earth a little bit going into the tournament. It’s one and done now,” Bernhardt said.
There were some bright spots, though, with some Terrapins putting in strong individual performances against the Raiders.
Haus was proud of how he played, though he said he could have played better.
“In the end it doesn’t really matter how many points I put up. You ask anybody on this team, they don’t care how many goals they score, how many assists [they get], how many groundballs [they pick up], how many saves they have,” Haus said. “We just want to win and continue to win and keep playing for a couple more weeks. That’s the goal for everybody.”
To do that Maryland has to play a full game, something the team is still struggling to do. The team has been outscored 39-30 in the fourth quarter this season.
Since 1991, only the 2001 Princeton team won the NCAA Championship after being outscored in the final 15 minutes throughout the season.
“I think that’s an irrelevant statistic,” Cummings said. “It is a call to us to finish better…but that’s been a focus all year.”
“They’re really stingy defensively…They make you earn your good shots and they make you earn your goals. We’re going to have our work cut out for us to try to get to double digits,” Tillman said.
Maryland is 90-9 since 2002 when scoring at least 10 goals.
Lehigh won a program record 14 games this year, as many games as Maryland played all season.
Being the underdog won’t phase Maryland, Tillman said, because the team has thrived in those situations.
“We’ve been a little bit more focused, we’ve had a little bigger chip on our shoulder…Sometimes handling adversity is a little bit easier than handling success,” Tillman said.
Tillman said the team needs to wipe the slate clean going into the tournament. Any of the 16 remaining teams have a shot to win it.
There are no clear favorites entering the tournament. The University of Massachusetts is the only undefeated team thanks to a schedule that did not feature a single opponent that made the NCAA tournament.
Cummings said he thinks Maryland has a shot to win the championship.
He added: “I don’t think anyone’s seen the best of Maryland lacrosse.”