Postscript from Maryland vs. Virginia
Maryland’s defense – a unit brimming with experience and relied on as the team’s strength – picked the wrong time to post perhaps its worst outing of the season.
The unseeded Terps (13-5) allowed seventh-seeded Virginia (13-5) to score nine goals – including five in the second quarter – en route to a two-goal victory in the NCAA tournament final at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Monday.
Maryland, or more specifically senior defenseman Brett Schmidt, limited Cavaliers junior attackman and Tewaaraton Award finalist Steele Stanwick to zero goals and only one assist. But the defense failed to account for redshirt sophomore midfielder Colin Briggs (five goals) and sophomore attackmen Nick O’Reilly (one goal and four assists) and Matt White (three goals).
“We let in nine goals. We’ve been playing better than that lately,” a morose Schmidt said in the Terps’ locker room after the loss. “We did some uncharacteristic things today. It sucks. They had some good looks, and they finished their shots. So we’ve got to give the credit to them. [Redshirt freshman goalie] Niko [Amato] has been great for us through the playoffs, and he’s one of the best goalies in the country. He did all he could today, but we gave him shots that he couldn’t save, and that’s not on him. That’s our fault. We gave up 10-yard shots wide open from in front of the cage. You can’t blame Niko. That was all on the team defense. We just didn’t communicate well, and Virginia canned their shots.”
Amato sparkled early, making five saves in the first quarter including several from point-blank range. But he made just one stop in the second quarter, two in the third and zero in the fourth.
Asked if being asked to maintain that play over the final three quarters proved to be too much, Amato said he didn’t know.
“I just went out there each quarter and tried to do the best that I could do,” he said. “I knew the defense was going to do a great job. I just tried to make some plays to get the offense the ball back.”
The Terps (13-5) had leads of 1-0 and 3-2 in the first and second quarters, respectively, but the Cavaliers (13-5) ended the half with three goals over a span of 2 minutes, 25 seconds to enjoy a 5-3 advantage at halftime.
“You don’t want to let a team like that get on runs,” Maryland coach John Tillman acknowledged. “Give credit where credit is due. And to Virginia’s credit, they had some pretty good looks early. I felt like we were a little slow off the bus, and again, that young guy in the cage did a darn good job. We’re up 1-0 at the end of the first quarter, but Niko’s got five saves. So they’re a very talented group. They played very fast.”
*As mentioned previously, Schmidt performed admirably in his matchup with Stanwick, matching him on nearly every dodge and hounding him into surrendering the ball to his teammates. But Schmidt was in little mood to celebrate his personal showing. “I don’t know,” he said of gaining any satisfaction. “We let in nine goals as a defense. That’s all I really worry about, and I’m disappointed in that. I couldn’t help my teammates enough to get our team defense going and getting everyone communicating. It just sucks coming up this short.”
*Brian Farrell scored a goal to open the fourth quarter, but the Terps senior long-stick midfielder could only shake his head at a missed opportunity in the first quarter. On a well-designed play in which he faked heading to the sideline for a substitution, Farrell slipped past a Virginia player and received a pass from a teammate at the top of the box. The Baltimore native and Boys’ Latin graduate barreled into the high slot and slung a shot that eluded senior goalkeeper Adam Ghitelman, but rang off the left post. “We were told to shoot to the off-stick side, and I shot it, and it hit the pipe,” Farrell said. “It sucks thinking about it now. It would’ve been a big play early in the game.” Senior attackman Ryan Young and junior midfielder Drew Snider also struck pipe with shots, leading senior attackman Grant Catalino to wonder what might have been. “Two more inches, it’s a goal,” he said. “And a different day, maybe those pipes are goals. Our players played hard. They shot the ball well. I just think the ball didn’t roll our way today.”
*Some might conclude that Maryland’s bad luck regarding the pipes was a reflection of the Cavaliers’ tough zone defense, a scheme that forced opponents into taking low-percentage shots from the outside. That defense became nearly impenetrable in the fourth quarter when the Terps trailed by three and had fewer possessions. “You can’t beat a zone with one pass or one dodge,” Catalino said. “It takes multiple passes, draw a few guys to one side of the field, bang it across. So I think them having the ball really didn’t change much. I think towards the end of the game, when we were down a few, we had to press the situation a little more than we did in the beginning. It’s hard to come back on a zone that’s played well during so much of the game and stick a few in the end.”