Kirk Thurston walked toward the locker room in Byrd Stadium, holding his helmet in his hand while sweat dripped through the black under his eyes. He looked sideways with a feigned smile, trying to find the right words to finish the conversation. "I guess I'll see you next year," he finally said.
There were no regrets from Thurston or the rest of the Maryland lacrosse team, no alibis to ponder during the offseason. They simply were dominated at crucial times by North Carolina, which broke an 8-8 tie in the fourth quarter and defeated the Terrapins, 12-10, yesterday in an NCAA quarterfinal before 4,000 at Byrd Stadium.
The Tar Heels (9-3), who won at Byrd Stadium for the first time since 1981, will play Johns Hopkins -- a 13-6 winner yesterday over Massachusetts -- in the semifinals Saturday in Newark, Del.
"I was asked if it was a breakdown on our defense or their great offense," said Maryland Coach Dick Edell, whose team finished 10-3 after earning Maryland's first playoff berth since 1983. "It was their great offensive play. We put our best defense out there and tried to neutralize them.
"In the heat, they played the 60th minute like the first. We were right back in it. But we may have used too much to get back in it."
Edell was referring to the Terrapins' comeback from a 7-3 halftime deficit to tie the match at 8-8 with 13:03 remaining on a goal by Allen McGuckian. But then the Tar Heels put on a display of finesse and seemed to come up with every important ground ball.
With 10:30 to play, Pat Welsh, who scored two goals, cocked his stick from 10 yards away and swept a below-the-waist liner past Maryland goalie Jim Beardmore.
After McGuckian missed a shot, Chris Walker controlled the ball 30 yards from the Maryland goal, raced straight ahead as defenders watched and scored to give North Carolina a 10-8 lead.
North Carolina made it 11-8 when Brett Davy won the ensuing faceoff and scored unassisted, beating Maryland defender Guy Riccardi.
"We had a couple of shots that could have turned the game around," said Thurston, who led Maryland with three goals. "We had the home crowd, and I had a chance to make it 9-8. They had the transition game and came back and scored two goals. They got some key ground balls that turned the game around."
The Terrapins got a break when North Carolina's Kevin Haus was penalized for slashing. With a man advantage, Maryland narrowed the margin to 11-9 when Mike Mosco scored his second goal from the right side with 6:31 remaining.
Thirty seconds later, however, Gary Seivold, who had three goals and three assists, virtually secured the North Carolina victory with a spectacular shot to make it 12-9. Ten yards from the goal, with Maryland's Dan Tracy on him, he faded backward and scored against reserve goalie Dennis Sullivan.
"Like Seivold's goal, we took shots that normally don't go in," said North Carolina Coach Willie Scroggs. "But they did today."
McGuckian brought Maryland within 12-10 with 3:33 to play, and the Terrapins' Eric Korvin won the faceoff. But Brendan Hanley missed a shot and Barney Aburn stopped Thurston. After that, the Tar Heels held the ball.