Following an 18-6 victory over Colgate in the Maryland men’s lacrosse team’s regular season finale on Saturday, senior Jesse Bernhardt, a starting longstick midfielder, walked off the Byrd Stadium field wearing the construction hard hat that symbolizes the player in the Terrapins’ program who has the most energy and works the hardest.
Based on Maryland’s energy and purpose against the Raiders, it could have used about a dozen more hard hats.
The 16-team NCAA tournament field will be announced Sunday night. Maryland (10-3) is expected to receive one of eight at-large bids.
The team that has reached the past two NCAA title games picked a good time for its best game in several weeks. Against the Raiders (8-7), Maryland had first-half leads of 5-0 and 10-2.
“We hadn’t been playing great the past couple weeks. We needed this,” said fifth-year senior Jake Bernhardt, a starting midfielder. “We had to get back to what we were doing early in the season.”
Colgate entered having beaten Maryland in the regular season finale each of the past two years. It also was the final game for senior Peter Baum, the winner of the 2012 Tewaaraton Trophy given to the top player in the sport.
Baum had played a big role in the wins over Maryland; of Colgate’s 23 goals, he scored seven and assisted on three. On Saturday, by the time Baum took his first shot, Maryland led 5-1 and nearly 16 minutes had elapsed. Baum, guarded at times by Jesse Bernhardt, finished with one goal on four shots.
Overall, it was a good finish to a regular season that had turned sour the past three games. The Terrapins lost to Johns Hopkins, 7-4; defeated Yale, 8-7, in a final sequence in which Yale coaches and players contend a last-second shot had crossed the goal line but was not credited as a score; and lost to Virginia in the ACC tournament semifinals, 13-6.
Earlier in the week, Maryland players and coaches met to try to rediscover what had made it the nation’s top-ranked team for several weeks in February and March. They talked about playing with more energy and making things more simple and more direct on offense.
The changes were apparent to Colgate Coach Mike Murphy. He said the Terrapins “had a lot more jump in their legs” from the three previous games.
“We haven’t played a great game in a month and a half,” Jake Bernhardt said. “We’re trying to find energy in practice. Coach took feedback from us and we gave it to them, and we instilled it in practice. As a team, everyone realized we had to bring the energy every day.”
Said senior Kevin Cooper, a starting attackman who had two goals and four assists Saturday: “We’ve gone through a little rough patch offensively and as a team. We kind of went back to the drawing board and went really simple. The coaches have a lot of trust in us, we have a lot of experience. . . . Our sets were a little more basic and simple, we knew our looks.”
Maryland is the only area team eligible to reach the NCAA tournament. Navy (3-10) set a school record for most losses in a season; Georgetown (6-9) had its first losing season since 1989; and Virginia (7-8) will miss the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004.
Overall, the 16-team field is bound to have some new faces. Among the teams not likely to receive a bid is Johns Hopkins (9-5), which has reached the NCAA tournament a record 41 consecutive seasons.
Colgate reached the NCAA quarterfinals last year and Murphy was an assistant on the Army team that reached the quarterfinals in 2010.
“The parity in college lacrosse, [winning the title] is about who’s playing the best right now,” Murphy said. “The team that plays the hardest and sacrifices the most, they’re going to be the team that walks away with it.”