TOWSON, Md. – A storied lacrosse rivalry that has laid dormant since 2012 picked up right where it left off Sunday – with a thrilling NCAA tournament upset.
The unseeded Maryland Terrapins upset sixth-seeded Towson in overtime, 14-13, and ended a dreary Sunday piled in a bright red, celebratory heap in the middle of the Tigers’ home turf at Johnny Unitas Stadium. Sunday was the 34th meeting between Towson and Maryland in a series that began in 1971 but just the third in the NCAA tournament.
As was the case in the previous two tournament meetings in 1991 and 2001, the lower seed emerged victorious.
The Terps (12-4), unseeded for the first time since 2012, avoided their first opening-round exit since 2013 and move on to face No. 3 seed Virginia (13-3) on Saturday in Hempstead, N.Y. The Cavaliers defeated unseeded Robert Morris at home to advance to the second round.
“I’m just smiling,” senior defensive captain Curtis Corley said. “I’ve said it in every interview I’ve had down the stretch here, especially after losing to Hopkins. Just having another week with these guys, it’s amazing.”
Maryland bounced back from a 7-3 deficit in the second quarter to secure the win thanks to a hot fourth quarter that carried into overtime. Before that final period, teams traded goal streaks so consistently that Towson Coach Shawn Nadelen described the game as a boxing match.
Kyle Long set up both the tying and winning goals, accounting for four assists on the day after entering Sunday having logged nine assists all season, the most recent of which came March 23.
The Tigers (11-5) held a 13-12 lead with less than a minute left and were keeping the ball in the corner to run down the shot clock when Terps’ Coach John Tillman decided not to double the ball carrier and risk falling into a two-goal deficit. When the shot clock ran down, Long dead-sprinted down the field to feed the ball to junior Jared Bernhardt with less than 12 seconds to go. Bernhardt whipped the ball past Towson goalkeeper Tyler Canto to send the game into overtime, raising his hands in celebration as the ball rippled the net.
“That was one where you’re trying to think a play ahead,” Tillman said. “We felt like, all right, we’re going to go a little bit more conservative this week, and obviously, Kyle made a play to Jared. We practice those situations where we just have to go to the goal, and the guys showed some poise there.”
In the extra period, Long passed to Louis Dubick for the senior from Potomac’s second goal of the afternoon to close the game.
Dubick, Bernhardt and sophomore midfielder Anthony DeMaio each had two goals. Sophomores Logan Wisnauskas and Buddy Fairman had three apiece.
On the other end of the field, senior Danny Dolan was superb in goal, clocking 15 saves and often making up for Maryland’s less-than-stellar defense.
“He’s the guy all week who’s [been saying], ‘Hey, we’re not done yet, we’re not done yet, we’re not done yet.,’ ” Dubick said of Dolan.
Said Corley: “I just feel like at times he bailed us out on the doorstep.”
Maryland arrived unseeded for just the seventh time in program history in large part because the Terrapins dropped back-to-back losses to Johns Hopkins ahead of the NCAA tournament.
Maryland leapt to quick leads in both of those games, but this time, the Terps held steady after falling behind. Especially in the first half, Towson dominated possession behind the country’s best faceoff specialist in Alex Woodall. Woodall played for the first time Sunday since breaking his jaw at Delaware in April; he won 22 of 31 faceoffs.
“That kid’s a warrior,” Nadelen said. “He shouldn’t have been out there, but he chose to be out there. He wasn’t going to let his senior year end not on his terms . . . he was going to do everything he could to have an impact today, and he did.”
Tillman said the team spoke often about positive energy and sticking together in the week leading up to Sunday’s game. When Maryland trailed by two goals at halftime, the ninth-year coach instructed his defense to simply hang on during Towson’s extended possessions.
“We talk about it all the time: The hardest thing with the season is these guys, we are all going so fast,” Tillman said. “They’re busy with their schoolwork, they’re putting a lot of time in, we’re breaking down film, we’re doing everything. The hard part when you lose that last game is everything stops, and it’s the emptiest feeling in the world. So we tried to use that as motivation this week, like, we’ve just got to keep this thing rolling.”