Maryland Terrapins Men’s Lacrosse, NCAA Tournament, Round 1: Terps 13, UNC Tar Heels 6

Posted: May 15, 2011 in College Sports, Lacrosse
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

MD-Champs

When I discussed Gary Williams’ retirement as Maryland men’s basketball coach, I mentioned one of my favorite moments of his legacy. Midway through our championship season, #3 Maryland beat #1 Duke, and the powers-that-be chose to give the #1 ranking to #2 Kansas instead of us, because Kansas in past seasons often threatened for the national title. It didn’t matter that Maryland was actually playing better ball that season in general and that week in particular. Politics is an ugly reality of sports, isn’t it? The rest of the season I was hoping that we’d get to meet Kansas in the tournament so we could prove that we were a better team, and we got that opportunity in the Final Four. Maryland 97, Kansas 88. Suck it!

Maryland men’s lacrosse is in a similar position. The last game of the regular season meant very little. In fact, all it affected was the determination of seeding for the NCAA tournament, which means it shouldn’t have been taken seriously. #6 Maryland lost that close game to #17 Colgate (10-8), but that should have resulted in a big “so what?” from the selection committee. Instead, they used it as a rationale for placing Maryland, a season-long top 10 team, into the lower half of the tournament bracket. This was an incredibly obnoxious snub for a team that hasn’t been in that lower half since 1997. (Why didn’t Kansas basketball receive that same treatment in 2002? At least they would have deserved the slight snub.)

I found myself tweeting that this just gives Maryland the chance to really say screw you to the selection committee. This game was a good start.

I mean really, with almost 8 minutes to go in the game, one of the announcers says, “… and the Maryland Terrapins are packing their bags to Foxboro right now.” It was over long before it was over. Maryland’s performance against tournament 8th-seed UNC was as dominating for them as it was embarrassing for the home-team Tar Heels. The other announcer added, “Are you surprised [Maryland] was unseeded?”

Ummmmm, yes!

Of course, so far in the tournament, three other games were also 7-goal thrashings, but in each of those games, the higher seed won. If there’s any better example of poor seeding, I’d like to see it.

Highlights

There were some pretty good individual efforts throughout the game, but my MVP goes to Terps goalie, Niko Amato. In the decisive 3rd period alone, Amato had 7 saves, most of which were damn good saves, that could have changed momentum, or at least would have kept the score close. A great job. Did I mention he’s a freshman?!?!

On another note, I’d be very surprised if the Terp’s 9th goal didn’t result in a placement on ESPN’s top 10 plays of the week. #37 Brian Farrell pretended to pass the ball into #1 Grant Catalino’s stick, and Cantalino (and the other attackers) sold the trickery by pretending to attack. Meanwhile, Farrell trotted over to the other side of the field and surreptitiously tossed the ball to #23 Drew Snider (had a hat trick today), who throws the ball into the net. Carolina’s goalie, #19 Steven Rastivo, had his back to Snider. Like the rest of his team, he had no idea what was coming.

You can see the play here (warning: profanity).

And then there were the little things. During the 3rd period, #26 John Haus showed some serious hustle to make sure Maryland kept possession. This isn’t a play that will necessarily make the highlights, but for anyone that watched the game, it showed that this Terrapins team would not be denied. They were on a mission.

They still are. Here we come #1 Syracuse. See you in Foxboro, unless your nerves allow the upset by Siena.

Aside: The NLL

I had a choice of watching the Terps or a professional championship lacrosse game between Washington (state) and Toronto of the National Lacrosse League. It would seem that, given the same choice in football or basketball, I might choose, for example, the Super Bowl over a Maryland football “playoff” game. Not so here, and the decision was quite easy. I have an emotional investment in the Terps. I couldn’t care less about either the state of Washington or the entire country of Canada. This raised several questions in my mind.

1. If NCAA Division I lacrosse teams are clearly overrepresented by universities east of the Mississippi River, why are 5 of 10 of the NLL teams located west of the Mississippi? While we’re at it, why are they attempting to cover two countries for a start up league, with 3 of 10 teams from Canada? This doesn’t make sense. In any case, it prevents their potential fan base from personally caring about the league as much as they’d like.
2. Why does the professional league end its season before their college equivalent does? That’s unprecedented among the major sports of basketball, football, baseball, and hockey. Perhaps the massive disconnect from question #1 explains this, but in any case it doesn’t help the NLL.
3. Indoor lacrosse? Really? I guess if you’re playing in cold weather cities, it has to be indoors, but again I point you to question #1.
4. Their goalies look ridiculous, having padding so huge that they almost completely cover the cage (goal). Image matters.
5. I saw absolutely no tweets by @NLLNetwork during the game.

NLL-Goalie

This explains, at least in part, why the NLL isn’t particularly popular. I doubt many people even know about the 26-year-old league. I’d really like to see a professional lacrosse league take hold nationally, but the NLL appears to be making some poor decisions in that regard. It inevitably has to do with the existence of Major League Lacrosse, who might make similar mistakes, but that just raises more questions. A merger of the two leagues seems a necessary first step to large, national exposure, but considering the MLL plays outdoors, that’s not likely.

A shame, really. The score was 7-2 Toronto at halftime, and as predicted by the commentators, Washington made a huge comeback. It was 7-6 with 10 minutes to go in the game, making for some serious excitement. Toronto scored only once in the second half, and that was the difference in their first NLL championship. Toronto 8, Washington 7.

Follow me on Twitter @MMADork
Follow Maryland Athletics on Twitter @UMTerps
Follow ESPN on Twitter @ESPN
Follow the National Lacrosse League on Twitter @NLLNetwork
Follow the Major League Lacrosse on Twitter @MLL_Lacrosse

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