If there was ever an NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship game to see, it was this one. Maryland and North Carolina came down to the wire and then some.
Things got off to a hot start for the Tar Heels as they won the first face-off of the game and scored just over a minute into the game thanks to Luke Goldstock, his first of the game. Stephen Kelly would win the next face-off and gain UNC another possession. With less than a minute gone by, the Tar Heels struck again, this time Timmy Kelly found teammate Brian Cannon to give the Heels a 2-0 lead.
Maryland would go on to win the next face-off but turn the ball over. Successfully clearing the ball, North Carolina went on to score eight seconds into their offensive possession, this time from the Canadian product, Chris Cloutier. The Terps would take a time out here to stop any momentum Carolina had, or so they thought. Off the draw, Stephen Kelly gained another possession for his team getting it to Goldstock who shot wide. Fortunately, Cannon would come up big again and net his second goal off a feed from Steve Pontrello, making it 4-0 Tar Heels.
After a Maryland face-off win and a couple of turnovers, Dylan Maltz got the Terps on the board after intercepting an outlet pass from Brian Balkam right on the crease. Carolina would gain possession and get two shots off in under a minute with Kyle Bernlohr making the save on a Pontrello shot. terms got it down to O and got hit with a shot clock forty seconds later. Isaiah Davis-Allen got his look at cage but Balkam denied him. Maltz gained the rebound and found an open Henry West on the door step, who buried the ball in the back of the net to make it 4-2 in favor of UNC.
Austin Henningsen started to figure out Stephen Kelly as he won the ensuing face-off. Maryland got the ball on O and would eventually gain their first Extra Man Opportunity after Tate Jozokos was called for interference. Thirteen seconds into the EMO, Colin Heacock connected with Rambo to bring the Tar Heels lead down to one after firing a shot off his defenders hip.
There was a face-off violation against North Carolina called, giving Maryland the free possession. Balkam would go on to make a save against Heacock who made an incredible move offball from X. Fortunately, Maltz was there for the rebound and notched the game at four a piece.
Pontrello would regain the lead for UNC after a little back and forth action that included Goldstock hitting a pipe. Coincidentally, Goldstock went on to give the Tar Heels a two goal lead with William McBride on the assist. Maryland’s Henry West found Connor Kelly to bring the game back in reach for the Terps at the end of the first. 6-5 North Carolina heading into the second.
Maryland needed Bernlohr to get hot and quick, which he did after stoping a Michael Tagliaferri shot. Back and forth the teams went with a save by Balkam against West, a turnover by UNC after clearing the ball and a Lucas Gradinger turnover caused by UNC’s Austin Pifani. Patrick Kelly would find Goldstock on this possession for a Tar Heel goal to reclaim their two goal lead.
Isaiah Davis-Allen ws a roundball machine once again, giving the Terps opportunity after opportunity including one that go down to Connor Kelly who would eventually be denied by Balkam. Clears and turnovers ensued again, but this time Maryland came out on top after Bryan Cole swung the ball to Rambo, who found West to make it 7-6.
Over a minute possession came with the next Maryland possession. Hit with a shot clock, Rambo said ok and was part of another goal scored by Connor Kelly to tie it again. Under minute later, Maryland gained an one minute EMO from an Unnecessary Roughness penalty on Evan Connell. They needed less than 30 seconds this time as West would repay an assist to Rambo to take a one goal lead, 8-7 Terps.
The end of the second quarter was nothing short of nail biting as the two teams went back and forth, with saves from both goalies, a pipe from West and turnovers on both ends. At this point it’s anybody game.
Heading into the third quarter you could sense the tension between the teams and around the stadium. Greg Danseglio came up with the ground ball off the face off to get possession for Maryland. Connor Kelly would eventually turn the ball over thanks to the good defense of Brett Bedard who ended up taking it down for a shot that Balkam ate up. Balkam hit Bedard with an outlet pass that turned into a scoring opportunity for the midfielder but Bernlohr was up to the task, denying Brett for his chance at glory. Matt Dunn came up with the ball for the Terps and they had a successful clear. Maltz would take the shot on this possession only to be turned away by Balkam. Back and forth the two teams went for just under five minutes before West went to dodge, tripped over his own feet and scooted the ball out to the wing where Connor Kelly tipped it further down the sideline where Maltz scooped up the loose ball, nailed Heacock with a pass and found a waiting Rambo up top who blew it by Balkam. Terms took their first two goal lead of the game here.
Balkam came up big on the next Terp possession, stopping a Heacock shot. Connell was called for a holding penalty a second later, his second penalty of the game. The man down unit for UNC proved successful as it blocked a Bryan Cole shot and got the ball down to their offense. Pontrello would go to cage only to be denied by Bernlohr only to have Cloutier sneak one by him. That would be Cloutier’s 17th goal of the tournament, tying former Loyola Greyhound, Eric Lusby’s record for most goals by a single player in a single tournament. It would also end a seventeen minute scoreless drought by UNC. 9-8 Terps.
After a strong ride from the Tar Heels, they got the ball back down on offense thanks to Balkam’s heads up play against the long pass to the Terp attackman. Cloutier would go on to score his 18th goal of the tournament, breaking the record he had set just about a minute before and tying it at nine a piece.
Failed clears & turnovers were a big part of this game today as neither team wanted to lose. For over two minutes the teams went back and forth with each other, keeping everyone on the edge of their seats only to have Cloutier score another goal, giving UNC a 10-9 lead. That would be the second lead change of the game. Maryland would answer two minutes later with another long possession and a goal from Connor Kelly with help from West to tie the game at ten and give the game its fourth tie of the day.
The third ended with back and forth action once again, and Bernlohr making two saves to Balkam’s one.
Maryland would go on the EMO early this quarter with an Evan Connell cross-check penalty. Heacock got things started after a feed from West. It was followed up two minutes later by a goal fro Pontrello just seven seconds after the Tar Heels got hit with a shot clock and a Terrapin time out to tie it at eleven. Heacock would go to the cage alone, driving & giving his team a one goal lead once again.
Connor Kelly would get the ball down on offense after the Terps face-off win and clear and shot it wide. Rambo backed up the shot the Terps worked it and went right back to Kelly for another Terp goal. Maryland leads by two again, 13-11. North Carolina followed with a time out.
Stephen Kelly came out and won the face-off for UNC, but they shortly turned it over after Pat Kelly tried dodging from the wing and skipping it to the other wing for Cloutier. Balkam would stop the Maryland offense from scoring and they’d get the ball down to their antsy offense. Luckily, the Heels caught a break with their first EMO of the day due to a slash call on West. It didn’t take long for UNC to score as Pat Kelly found Goldstock for another goal. North Carolina’s Kyle Mathie picked up the loose ball on the next face-off and thirty seconds later, the Heels tie it at 13 thanks to Patrick Kelly.
Henningsen was injure don the next face-off, stopping the momentum of the Maryland offense. Heacock would turn the ball over eventually but Timmy Kelly would follow for UNC. There were two over and back calls, first on the Terps then on North Carolina which would lead to Heacock trying to redeem himself but the crossbar had other ideas. Matthew would scoop up the ground ball and get it to Patrick kelly who would be stripped by Mike McCarney and Bernlohr came up with the ground ball. Maryland would successfully clear the ball, get their touch and call time out. Out of the timeout, Rambo drove to the cage and was smothered by the Tar Heel defense with Blakam coming up with the save. MD was called for a crease violation and it would have been UNC ball but behind the play, at the other end of the field, Goldstock was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for retaliating at McCarney’s antics. With 3.9 seconds left, Maryland held on to the ball and would retain possession going into overtime.
It was nothing short of intense as Maryland was man up for the start of OT, including starting with possession. They worked the ball around for thirty seconds before Connor Kelly would rip a shot that Balkam somehow managed to stop. The Tar Heels cleared the ball and called time out. UNC killed the rest of the man down and went to work, as Cloutier had Bernlohr beat but Kyle had other ideas, making the most athletic and jaw dropping save ever. Unfortunately the cheers drew silent quickly as McCarney was called for a cross-check penalty.
Bernlohr came up big one more time, stopping a Goldstock shot but couldn’t keep possession. The Tar Heels worked the ball along the top and Michael Tagliaferri found Cloutier in that top left spot for the game winner.
This is North Carolina’s first National Championship since 1991 and fifth overall with the spirit of Michael Breschi living on in these boys throughout the tournament.