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.”