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Maryland men's lacrosse players celebrate after a goal against Virginia in the NCAA semifinals at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

Maryland Overwhelms Virginia, Will Play Notre Dame for NCAA Title

May 25, 2024
Matt DaSilva
Rich Barnes

Twenty-three days ago, Maryland looked like a lost cause. On Saturday, the Terrapins looked like a juggernaut.

Seventh-seeded Maryland dominated sixth-seeded Virginia from start to finish — at both ends of the field and in every phase of the game — in a 12-6 NCAA semifinal victory in front of 32,269 fans at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

The Terrapins (11-5) will face top-seeded Notre Dame in the championship game Monday.

Daniel Kelly scored three first-half goals, Luke Wierman won 15 of 22 faceoffs and USILA National Player of the Year Ajax Zappitello got the better of Tewaaraton Award finalist Connor Shellenberger to lead Maryland to its 16th NCAA final.

Few would have conceived of the Terrapins making it this far when Penn State throttled them 19-9 in the Big Ten tournament May 2. It was their fifth loss of the season. They got the seven seed anyway, a subject of much discussion when the NCAA tournament bracket came out.

As Maryland has done repeatedly in John Tillman’s 14 years as the head coach, however, it has come to life in the postseason. The Terrapins blew out Princeton 16-8 and came back to defeat Duke 14-11.

But Saturday’s performance takes the cake. Maryland held Virginia’s high-powered offense to its fewest goals since Loyola defeated the Cavaliers 11-4 in the 2016 season opener.

Zappitello limited Shellenberger to just one goal and one assist, enough for the Virginia standout to surpass Gary Gait as the all-time leading scorer in NCAA tournament history but far from what the Cavaliers needed.

Shellenberger had four turnovers. Zappitello caused three.

“Whether we’re down or up, he keeps us steady,” Maryland goalie Logan McNaney said on ESPN2. “He’s a rock for us.”

Wierman was 10-for-12 in the first half and five of the Terrapins’ seven goals were assisted as they jumped out to a 7-3 lead.

Virginia’s Kyle Morris got his first career start in goal and fared OK, making five first-half saves. But the Cavaliers were under siege due to the possession imbalance.

The once-moribund Maryland offense, meanwhile, is suddenly operating with 2022-like efficiency, with rapid ball movement, precise shooting and a general swagger they’ve since lacked. The Terrapins scored twice in the first 53 seconds of the third quarter and never looked back.

Defenseman Colin Burlace, who scored in the second quarter, broke Virginia’s 10-man ride with a falling-down pass to Eric Spanos on the doorstep for a goal that make it 11-4 going into the fourth quarter.

After the Cavaliers scored twice to get it back within five goals, Jack Brennan delivered the backbreaker. With the shot clock about to expire, Eric Spanos fended off multiple defenders and fed Brennan across the crease under pressure and Brennan stuck the shot to put Maryland ahead 12-6.

A Maryland-Notre Dame final means the last two NCAA champions will play on Memorial Day. The 1 p.m. Eastern game will air live on ESPN.