Maryland trying to avoid thinking of Syracuse-less bracket
When the 16-team field for the NCAA tournament was unveiled May 9, many observers thought No. 3 seed Maryland’s path to the national championship game would be blocked by No. 2 seed and 11-time national champion Syracuse.
That hurdle, however, was cleared Sunday, when Army stunned the Orange, 9-8, in double overtime. That doesn’t mean that the Terps (12-3) are a lock to make it to the tournament final. They still have to beat Notre Dame in the quarterfinal Saturday and then either No. 7 seed Cornell or the aforementioned Black Knights in the semifinal.
But a couple of Maryland players were candid in their realization that perhaps the team’s biggest impediment has been removed.
"I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think about it at all," sophomore midfielder Jake Bernhardt said Tuesday. "I was just taking an exam, and I was thinking about it. I would like to sit here and say, ‘Since Syracuse is gone, we’re going to definitely make it.’ But we’ve got Notre Dame this weekend, and they’re not going to be a pushover. We’ve got all of these other great teams that we’ve got to get past first. We just have to focus on Notre Dame this weekend."
Added sophomore midfielder Joe Cummings: "It’s definitely hard not to look past Notre Dame, but we’ve been keeping our focus on them and trying to get ready every day and get better every day. The knowledge that the team that has won it the last two years isn’t in it anymore makes it exciting. There’s going to be a new national champion, and we want to be that national champion. Congratulations to Army, but we’ve got to take care of our business with Notre Dame to be able to get to the Final Four."
If Bernhardt, Cummings and their teammates are having those thoughts, they’re certainly doing a good job of keeping them under wraps because coach Dave Cottle says he has not had to temper their enthusiasm about the possibilities that lie ahead.
"Not one time have we talked about it," Cottle said. "That’s the what-if? What if we play Cornell? What if we play Army? We’re not dealing with what-ifs. We’re playing with what-is. We’re going to focus on us and try to get better."