Maryland senior Mike Chanenchuk didn’t leave the field in his team’s 12-10 victory over Villanova in men’s lacrosse on Friday night at Byrd Stadium. Chanenchuk, a starting midfielder, took his usual shifts with the first line for the top-ranked Terrapins (6-0).
When the second midfield was in the game, Chanenchuk shifted to attack.
And in the final three minutes, with Maryland clinging to its two-goal lead, Chanenchuk engineered a vital clear from the Maryland end line that took precious time from the Wildcats (1-4).
Chanenchuk finished with a team-high four points on three goals and an assist.
His performance was important given that the game became tight after Maryland had early leads of 7-0, 8-1 and, at halftime, 9-2.
“We came out with a great start,” Chanenchuk said. “Playing with a lead is something you have to learn. Hopefully in practice we can look at some things and clean some things up.”
Maryland is shooting for its first national title since 1975.
Thus far, the Terrapins have beaten both teams that reached the NCAA title game last year (Syracuse and defending champion Duke).
But ending the title drought is hardly a given despite Maryland’s 6-0 start and No. 1 ranking.
Since it won its last title, Maryland has started 6-0 or better 12 times. Moreover, the team ranked No. 1 in the first U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association poll in March (as Maryland was last year and this year) hasn’t won a national title since Johns Hopkins in 2005.
Friday had a few harrowing moments courtesy of the Wildcats, the Big East runners-up last year.
Villanova runs a constant-motion offense that resembles a basketball scheme.
And after a slow start, the Wildcats closed to 12-10 on a goal by sophomore Jack Curran with 5 minutes 2 seconds to play. The teams traded turnovers and each had one shot go high before Villanova went on extra-man offense following a Maryland penalty with 1:13 to play.
Two Villanova shots went wide before senior longstick midfielder Michael Ehrhardt forced a turnover in the final seconds to clinch the victory.
Senior Kevin O’Neil finished with three goals for Villanova. Freshman Connor Cannizzaro scored three goals and junior Charlie Raffa added a goal and 10 groundballs for the Terrapins.
Cannizzaro is part of a heralded freshman class that includes starting attackmen Matt Rambo (two goals on Friday) and Tim Rotanz and second-line midfielder Colin Heacock (one goal).
At a team autograph session after the game, the last two players being besieged by autograph requests from youth players were Cannizzaro and Rotanz.
Yet it is four-year starting goalie Niko Amato, an experienced defense and older offensive players such as Chanenchuk who will make a big difference.
“Number one, at the defensive end of the field, Maryland’s three close defensemen and Ehrhardt are awesome,” Villanova Coach Mike Corrado said. “And they also have maybe the best goalie in the country. They face off well. They have five or six guys who can shoot the ball really well. They put a lot of pressure on you.”
Maryland scored seven seconds into the game after Raffa won the opening faceoff clean and scored in transition. Of their eight possessions in the first quarter, Maryland scored on seven, culminating in a goal by Rambo for a 7-0 lead with 1:27 left in the first quarter.
Overall, Maryland scored five goals with the first midfield in the game, three goals with the second midfield, three in transition and one on its only extra-man opportunity. Chanenchuk was on the field for it all.
Perhaps the only problem on display Friday was a lack of depth on faceoffs.
Raffa, who has been slowed by an injury, won 12 of 20. His backups won one of six.
Four times in the second half, Villanova senior Thomas Croonquist won a faceoff against sophomore Henry West — Raffa’s backup — and the Wildcats scored on the ensuing possession.
“Obviously the way the game finished wasn’t the way we wanted,” Maryland Coach John Tillman said. “But the guys had done enough early in the game to get us through. There are some teachable moments, but our effort was excellent.”