No. 7 Maryland dismantles Virginia, advances to third NCAA Title Game in four years

Senior attacker, Daniel Kelly, stood in between two Virginia defenders in the Terps offensive zone. As junior Eric Spanos wrapped around the left side of the cage, Kelly quietly stepped back in front of the goaltender, Kyle Morris. Spanos saw Kelly open and seconds after the pass to Kelly, the Terps were celebrating his second hat-trick of the season in the second period.

Kelly’s three goals helped Maryland advance to the National Championship game, beating Virginia, 12-6, Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. 

Maryland had eight different goal scorers, with Kelly leading the pack with his three goals. Daniel Maltz contributed two goals, Colin Burlace added one in the second quarter, and Luke Wierman scored in the second period as well. 

Spanos, Jack Koras, and Ryan Siracusa combined to score four goals in the third period and Jack Brennan scored one in the fourth to end the Terps scoring.   

The Terps totaled 37 shots in the game, with 17 of them on goal. Virginia only had 15 of its 39 attempts on goal. 

“We were generating a lot of shots, but we just weren’t putting them on cage,” Virginia head coach Lars Tiffany said postgame.  

The game was a turnaround from the team’s first matchup this season that resulted in a 14-10 victory for the Cavaliers. In that game, Connor Shellenberger, McCabe Millon, and Payton Cormier combined for six goals for Virginia. Maryland’s defense held the trio to four in the semifinal game, in large part to the defense of senior Ajax Zappitello. 

“Ajax is incredible,” Burlace said postgame. “We have the utmost confidence in him to win his matchup and do his job which allows us to kind of do our own thing and not worry about that as much and being able to take a player like Connor Shellenberger and kind of put him on an island with Ajax … it allows our defense to succeed.”

Maryland held control of the game for most of the first half scoring four goals in the first quarter and three in the second. Maryland put 12 of its 22 shots on goal, doubling the six shots on goal from the Cavaliers. The Terps recorded an assist on five of their seven goals, finding easy scoring opportunities due to their impressive passing. 

Virginia only scored three goals within the first 30 minutes of play. Two of the Cavaliers three goals were unassisted (Shellenberger and Millon’s goals). Chase Yager recorded Virginia’s only assist contributing to Joey Terenzi’s goal, showing the impact Maryland’s frantic and attacking defense had on Virginia’s attack. 

“I thought our guys got back and it was all about get to six on six, get to six on six, get to six on six, and still you have to defend a great group of obviously Kevin does a great job with the offense and they’re still going to put six great players out there,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said postgame. 

The Terps led, 7-3, at halftime.  

The lead quickly grew thanks to midfielder Koras. Koras scored his first goal of the game within the first minute of the period and then twenty seconds later, he assisted on Spanos’ first of the game. Spanos’ second goal of the period gave the Terps a 11-4 advantage going into the final 15 minutes. 

Hitting the double digit mark has proven to be a big mark in the Terps history. Since 2015, Maryland is 121-19 when scoring ten or more goals in a game. Maryland increased that record to 122-19. 

The Terps scored once more in the final quarter, leaving no doubt at their advancement to the National Championship. 

Maryland’s offense finished the game with nine assists on its 12 goals. Spanos led the Terps in assists with three, his first game this season with three assists. The Terps also won the groundball battle, 38-28, with Wierman leading the team with ten. 

Wierman dominated the face-off battle, winning 15 of 22. Terps goalie, Logan McNaney, finished with eight saves and a save percentage above 50%. 

“Unfortunately, we were on the wrong side of possession today,” Tiffany said postgame. “Give Luke Wierman credit in that first half where it was really lopsided.”  

Maryland will go up against the field’s No. 1 seed — the Notre Dame Fighting Irish — in the championship game. Notre Dame beat Maryland early this season, 14-9, on March 3. The game was one of four times this season the Terps were held under ten goals.  

“They’re so good everywhere, everything is good,” Tillman said about Notre Dame. “…We’re gonna have to put a lot of time in over the next two days to try to get ready.”