With under four minutes to go in the contest, Cornell was on a roll, trailing by just three points. Maryland’s once seven-point lead was steadily being snuffed out by a Big Red four-goal run.
Then, Cornell attacker John Piatelli drove to the net, sneaking the ball past goalie Logan McNaney. With designs of stymying McNaney’s otherwise historic weekend and strong afternoon, Piatelli’s diving goal could have potentially sent Maryland men’s lacrosse into panic mode. A prime opportunity for an upset and another disappointing end to a season.
Fortunately for the Terps, Maryland caught a huge break. Piatelli committed a crease violation while in the process of shooting, and his score was waved off.
This served to be the momentum killer. Cornell’s late run came a little too late, and Maryland narrowly reigned victorious, winning, 9-7.
This is Maryland’s fourth NCAA Tournament Title, and John Tillman’s second as a Maryland head coach.
“We talked about, all year, windshield mentality, always looking forward,” Tillman said. “I think that’s one thing that really helped us with this year was people talked about going undefeated, we never once talked about being undefeated.”
The mindset paid off. The Terps ended the season flawless with the most successful season in NCAA Tournament history – 18 games, zero losses. No champion has won more games without losing. The Terps have entered rarefied air, joining the likes of 2006 Virginia and 1990 Syracuse as one of the best college lacrosse units ever.
“Whether people want to say we’re the best team ever or not, we’re national champions and that’s all that matters,” midfielder Anthony DeMaio said.
All season, Maryland’s ability to flatten opponents with ease has granted praise from the nation’s top coaches, but after a year in which the team’s perfect season ended with a staggering championship loss, anything short of the national title prompted little excitement.
After the Big Ten tournament title, the subsequent tournament title and the individual accolades that followed, the focus was always on the NCAA Championship Game.
And at long last, the time finally arrived, and they played like they practiced for it all year.
At the time of the game’s start, the tension was palpable, and both defenses matched each other’s intensity. Throughout the season, Maryland’s offense would often start off strong, but both sides went scoreless for half of the first quarter.
However, Cornell took twice as many shots as Maryland before one finally fell in, giving The Big Red their first goal of the game.
After a long nine minutes without getting on the board, Maryland finally found a way to get through The Big Red’s staunch defense. Attackman Eric Malever scored first with a wraparound goal, then the next three were scored by DeMaio, marking the third straight game where a Terp scored a hat trick in the first quarter.
Maryland’s reign of terror continued in the second quarter. DeMaio added a fourth goal to his total, then attacker Logan Wisnauskas tallied in his 60th goal of the season to give the Terps a five-point lead at halftime.
Despite having more shots on target than Maryland, The Big Red only scored twice in the first half thanks to goalie Logan McNaney’s 10 saves, finishing the game with 17 and winning the player of the game award.
In the biggest game on the grandest stage, McNaney stepped up.
“Growing up, going to some of the Final Four tournaments, watching it on TV … reenacting scoring the game-winning goal for the National Championship – even though I play goalie – but, just growing up and seeing all the other teams do what they did and going out there and doing it ourselves is pretty special,” McNaney said.
A defensive third quarter didn’t see the lead change much, but a Jonathan Donville spin shot off a Wisnauskas assist pushed Maryland past Albany in 2015 for the most assists in a season in NCAA history with 204. All nine of Maryland’s goals were assisted.
“This group’s been selfless all year,” Tillman said. “We talked about because they do a great job individually, we wanted to make sure that everybody was involved in the offense. We’re at our best when everybody’s moving and coming and sharing it.”
Maryland was sitting comfortable in the middle of the third quarter with a, 9-2, lead. However, Cornell came crawling back. The Big Red scored four unanswered to keep the game competitive.
But time wasn’t on their side, and after their next few shots were sniffed out by McNaney, they were now racing the clock.
Following an overturned goal, Cornell was in desperation mode. Although they scored one final time, there was not much The Big Red could do once FOGO Luke Wierman won the face off. The clock soon expired, cementing Maryland’s place in history.