FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The play is called “Stag,” and it landed Maryland one step closer to its first national lacrosse title since 1975.
Senior Grant Catalino scored on a 10-yard shot with 32 seconds left in sudden-death overtime as the unseeded Terrapins defeated top-seeded Syracuse, 6-5, in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal before 14,122 at Gillette Stadium.
With the victory, Maryland (12-4) advanced to face defending national champion Duke (14-5) — which defeated Notre Dame, 7-5, on Sunday — in an NCAA semifinal next Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Virginia’s Cavaliers are also in the Final Four after their quarterfinal victory over Cornell on Saturday.
The winning goal came on a play that first-year Coach John Tillman installed this week to take advantage of Catalino, one of the most dangerous outside shooters in the game. The play calls for the ball to go behind the goal. In front of the goal, two players set a screen for Catalino.
Maryland ran the play four times on Sunday against the Orange (15-2). Late in the first half, Syracuse overplayed Catalino and senior Scott LaRue slipped free unnoticed and scored to tie the game at 2.
Three times, Catalino shot the ball. Facing him was senior goalie John Galloway, who owns the NCAA record for most victories by a goalie (59). Two victories came in NCAA championship games played in Gillette Stadium, in 2008 and 2009.
The first two times Catalino shot, the ball went wide and was saved. The third ended Galloway’s college career. As the ball went into a top corner of the net, Maryland players raced onto the field and jumped on Catalino. On the sideline, defensive coordinator Kevin Warne tackled Tillman and the two rolled joyfully on the ground.
“When I came around the double-seal, I was not thinking anything but do what I was told,” Catalino said. “In overtime, sometimes you don’t put as much thought. You go with what comes in your head.”
Said Galloway: “They held the ball for over two minutes in overtime looking for the right look. Unfortunately they found it and I wasn’t there to make the save.”
There was a long list of standouts for Maryland. Sophomore Curtis Holmes won 11 of 14 faceoffs despite going against all four Orange faceoff specialists. His work helped Maryland keep possession for more than 40 of the game’s 63-plus minutes.
Time of possession was important because Syracuse’s defense was so stout. Despite facing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, the Orange was giving up less than seven goals per game. Maryland struggled to get anything going on offense. Of the team’s 23 possessions, 11 lasted 1:55 or longer.
In the meantime, defensemen Max Schmidt, Brett Schmidt and Ryder Bohlander held the Orange attackmen to one goal, one assist and four shots.
Syracuse entered the game unbeaten in quarterfinals since 1981, a 25-game win streak. Coach John Desko had a 28-6 record in the NCAA tournament.
Desko called a timeout with 1:44 left and his team trailing 5-4. The score was tied 39 seconds later after senior Jovan Miller ran down the left side of the offensive box and scored on a high shot.
Syracuse won the ensuing faceoff and Desko called his final timeout. Again, Miller raced down the left of the offensive box. He again shot high. This time, with 16 seconds left, redshirt freshman goalie Niko Amato made the save.
Syracuse had one chance in overtime. Junior midfielder Kevin Drew took a shot on a four-on-three fast break from roughly the same part of the field where Miller had scored to tie the game. Drew also shot high — too high, and the ball went over the cage. Amato was closest when it went out of bounds, giving possession to Maryland.
“He had a certain look in his eye,” Amato said of Drew. “I just tried to stand my ground because there was a lot of green between me and him.”
The victory continued an unlikely run for the unseeded Terrapins. Despite winning the ACC tournament, Maryland was given a road game in the first round against conference foe North Carolina, then drew the most successful postseason program in the sport.
“Instead of seeing [the draw] as a negative,” Tillman said, “they did an awesome job of saying, ‘If we’re going to go, this is going to be a hard road, but we’re used to that.’ ”
l DUKE 7, NOTRE DAME 5: The defending NCAA champion Blue Devils scored three times in the fourth quarter to beat the Fighting Irish in the second quarterfinal in Foxborough, Mass.
Fifth-seeded Duke, which will meet Maryland in the semifinals, made next weekend’s Final Four a three-quarters ACC event. No. 7 seed Virginia and sixth-seeded Denver will meet in the other semifinal.
Duke and Notre Dame were tied at 4 after three quarters, but Jordan Wolf, Tucker Virtue and Robert Rotantz scored for the Blue Devils in the final period.
Westy Hopkins had three goals for fourth-seeded Notre Dame (11-3).
— Associated Press