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Rematch with Virginia is next after Maryland rolls in NCAA lacrosse opener

NCAA tournament first round: Maryland 21, Vermont 5

Keegan Khan’s Maryland squad cruised past Jackson Canfield and Vermont on Sunday in College Park. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
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Perhaps someone will slow Maryland’s undefeated men’s lacrosse juggernaut this month, but it was clear just a few minutes into Sunday’s game that it wouldn’t be Vermont.

The top-seeded Terrapins dispatched the unseeded Catamounts, 21-5, in the first round of the NCAA tournament in College Park, setting up a rematch of last year’s national title game against Virginia in next Sunday’s quarterfinals in Columbus, Ohio. The unseeded Cavaliers pounded eighth-seeded Brown, 17-10, on Saturday in Rhode Island.

“It’s exciting and a pretty familiar opponent,” Maryland defenseman Matt Rahill said. “We both know each other pretty well, and they’re a great team. I think a lot of people kind of forgot how good they actually are, so we definitely can’t take them lightly — and we won’t take them lightly.”

Sunday’s 16-goal margin was the Terps’ largest ever in the postseason, surpassing a 16-4 rout of Brown in the 1973 quarterfinals. It also was the most lopsided NCAA tournament game since Syracuse’s 20-3 drubbing of Canisius in the 2008 first round.

The faceoff specialist behind Maryland lacrosse’s dominant season

Luke Wierman won 16 of 19 faceoffs, Logan Wisnauskas had four goals and two assists and Logan McNaney made 11 saves in three quarters for Maryland (15-0), which has won 32 of its past 33 games.

The one defeat? Last year’s 17-16 loss to Virginia in the national championship game, a jarring setback for a Maryland program that also suffered a one-goal defeat to the Cavaliers in the 2019 quarterfinals. The teams met again March 19 at Audi Field, with Maryland pummeling the Cavaliers, 23-12.

But a postseason showdown between two of the nation’s best programs will have a bit more at stake than a mid-March regular season encounter.

“They’re champions until you beat them,” Maryland Coach John Tillman said. “We have to show in the playoffs that we can do that, so we need to kind of have an underdog mentality because they are the guys that have the crown and you have to take it from them.”

Maryland’s scoring output was its second largest in the postseason, shy of only a 22-11 defeat of Navy in the 1976 semifinals.

David Closterman had a goal and an assist for the Catamounts (12-7), whose 10-game winning streak ended. The America East champions also fell in the first round at Maryland last year, a game that didn’t entirely get away from Vermont until late in the third quarter.

This one was effectively over much sooner. Wisnauskas and Eric Malever scored on Maryland’s first two shots, but the Catamounts gamely kept their deficit to 3-1 at the end of the first quarter.

Eventually, Wierman’s faceoff dominance helped Maryland take control. The Terps scored three times in a two-minute span to bump their lead to 6-1 and then added a goal in transition from defenseman Ajax Zappitello with 7:29 left in the quarter.

“That’s when we’re most efficient — when we can just roll the lines and we’re getting faceoffs and we’re getting stops and it’s comprehensive like that,” midfielder Jonathan Donville said.

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After a television timeout, Maryland scored twice in seven seconds, the second one a Wisnauskas dart that gave him the fifth 50-goal season in program history. A Vermont timeout accomplished little; the Terps pushed their advantage to 11-1 before the Catamounts ended the nine-goal run.

Anthony DeMaio and Owen Murphy scored three times apiece for Maryland, which had 12 players score and assisted on 15 of its goals. The Terps shot 45.7 percent and hit the 20-goal plateau for the seventh time this season.

Vermont Coach Chris Feifs, who played for Maryland from 2004 to 2007 and is a former assistant at North Carolina, has a good sense of the Terps’ history over the past two decades. So when he says this is the best Maryland team he has seen, that carries some weight.

“They move the ball better than any team I’ve seen,” he said. “They just play really selfless on offense, and they have so many weapons on attack and through the midfield. They can really find a different way to beat you on every possession. On the back end, their defense is really stout, and their goalie saves everything you put on cage. I’d say they’re substantially better than last year.”