Men’s lacrosse team edges Den­ver, 9-8, for spot in cham­pi­onship

MARY­LAND 9, DEN­VER 8 Late equalizer waved off; Ohio State awaits in fi­nal

The Washington Post Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - BY RO­MAN STUBBS

foxbor­ough, mass. — Mary­land se­nior at­tack­man Colin Hea­cock has learned to shut­ter the anx­i­ety that comes with play­ing in the lacrosse Fi­nal Four, so he didn’t panic as he watched his team­mates scram­ble to de­fend Den­ver’s fi­nal pos­ses­sion in Satur­day’s na­tional semi­fi­nal. He stood de­fense­less at one end of the field as the fi­nal sec­onds ticked down, his team ahead by one goal and cling­ing to the hope of re­turn­ing to the na­tional cham­pi­onship game for the third year in a row.

Hea­cock had a chance to put the game away on the pre­vi­ous pos­ses­sion, but his ac­ro­batic goal was called off be­cause of a crease vi­o­la­tion. Mary­land sur­vived with a 9-8 win af­ter Pi­o­neers at­tack­man Con­nor Don­ahue was hit with the same call with 9.2 sec­onds left, his hard-charg­ing goal called off af­ter of­fi­cials ruled he had gone into the crease.

“Those kind of sit­u­a­tions kind of hap­pen, and you can’t think that much about what’s go­ing on,” Hea­cock said. “It’s just the heat of the mo­ment.”

Mary­land (15-3) ran out the clock fol­low­ing the call against Don­ahue, keep­ing alive its quest to win the school’s first na­tional cham­pi­onship in 42 years. The Ter­rap­ins will meet Ohio State (16-4) in the na­tional cham­pi­onship Mon­day, the rub­ber match af­ter each team beat one an­other by one goal in two pre­vi­ous meet­ings this sea­son. The Buck­eyes ral­lied to beat Tow­son, 11-10, in the other semi­fi­nal Satur­day.

Mary­land’s Con­nor Kelly scored three goals, in­clud­ing the go-ahead tally with 8:41 left, and Hea­cock and Dy­lan Maltz each added a pair for the Ter­rap­ins on a day in which they watched star at­tack Matt Rambo draw heavy cov­er­age and opted to use me­thod­i­cal of­fense to wear down the Pi­o­neers.

The all-Big Ten na­tional cham­pi­onship game on Memo­rial Day was made pos­si­ble af­ter Mary­land held off a sec­ond-half rally by Den­ver (13-4), which had de­feated the Ter­rap­ins in the na­tional

fi­nal in 2015 and en­tered Satur­day’s semi­fi­nal with the most pro­duc­tive face­off man in the coun­try in se­nior Trevor Bap­tiste.

But the Pi­o­neers strug­gled to win pos­ses­sions early as Bap­tiste strug­gled in the face­off cir­cle — he won just 11 for 21 draws Satur­day against Mary­land’s tan­dem of Austin Hen­ningsen (7 for 15) and Jon Garino Jr. (3 for 6) — which set the tone for a Mary­land game plan that called for long and drawn out of­fen­sive pos­ses­sions.

“Jon and Austin col­lec­tively, that was maybe kind of the big theme for the game was those two guys hang­ing in there,” Mary­land Coach John Till­man said.

While Mary­land’s own Te­waara­ton Award can­di­date, Rambo, strug­gled to shed Den­ver’s swarm­ing de­fense, the Ter­rap­ins used their bal­ance to build a 5-3 lead in the first half. Rambo’s only goal of the af­ter­noon, a firsthalf rocket that helped give Mary­land a 5-3 half­time lead, set the school record for ca­reer goals (154). But he didn’t need to force the is­sue as the game wore on.

The teams traded goals to be­gin the third quar­ter, with Mary­land’s Tim Rotanz an­swer­ing Don­ahue to keep his team’s lead at two.

But pos­ses­sions re­mained at a pre­mium for much of the rest of the third quar­ter. Mary­land had one pos­ses­sion in the third quar­ter that lasted 3 min­utes 23 sec­onds, capped with Maltz wrap­ping around the net and scor­ing his sec­ond goal to make it 7-4. Den­ver re­sponded with its third mid­field goal of the day, an unas­sisted score from Joe Reid, to end an­other scor­ing drought that lasted 10 min­utes 6 sec­onds.

Con­nor Can­niz­zaro, the for­mer Mary­land at­tack who was a part of the Ter­rap­ins’ her­alded 2013 re­cruit­ing class that in­cluded Rambo and Hea­cock be­fore trans­fer­ring to Den­ver, trimmed his for­mer team’s lead to 7-6 with just less than two min­utes re­main­ing in the third quar­ter.

Af­ter Den­ver had tied the score with 10 min­utes left, Kelly beat Pi­o­neers goalie Alex Ready top­shelf to give Mary­land a 9-8 lead. On the en­su­ing two pos­ses­sions, Mary­land missed prime op­por­tu­ni­ties. One shot hit the cross­bar and an­other shot dan­ger­ously danced across the crease be­fore Den­ver re­tained pos­ses­sion.

“We have a lot of re­spect for them,” Kelly said. “They’ve got a lot of lanky guys that can get out to your hands.”

With just more than a minute re­main­ing, Rambo split a dou­bleteam and found Hea­cock, who ap­peared to score from point­blank range. But of­fi­cials ruled that he was in the crease, giv­ing the Pi­o­neers one last chance for the equalizer. Don­ahue’s bid was waved off, how­ever, be­cause of the same in­frac­tion.

“That game could have gone any­body’s way. It lit­er­ally was a game of inches,” Till­man said. “You look at those last two plays, which I ac­tu­ally thought the refs made the right call on both of them, but that’s how close that game was.”

OMAR RAWL­INGS/GETTY IM­AGES

Mary­land’s Matt Rambo tries to get around Chris­tian Burgdorf. The Terps will play Ohio State next.

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