What a season it has been for NCAA Men’s Lacrosse with heart breaks in Conference Championship games and upsets in the national tournament. It all comes down to this weekend at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia where the Division 1 Final Four and Championship games will take place, alongside the Division 2 & 3 Championship games.
On Saturday, lacrosse fans will get to see two teams battle it out for a spot in the Championship game on Monday between the University of Maryland and Brown University.
The Terrapins have not won a Championship since 1975 (also won in 1973) but has been runner up eight times since then (1976, 1979, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2011, 2012 and 2015). John Tillman has brought his team to the Championship game three times since being named Head Coach of the Terps, including four Final Fours. They always have such great talent all around. Needless to say, Maryland is due to hoist the golden trophy. Maryland’s most recent game agains the Orange was meant to be a showdown but the Terps came away with a 13-7 victory. Seems the offense from College Park, Md is gaining momentum going into this weekend.
Maryland may have the chance to but will have to get through Brown and Head Coach, Lars Tiffany. The Bears have downed highly touted teams such as Cornell, Yale and Johns Hopkins. In their most recent game, Brown survived against Navy thanks to an errant pass that sealed their one goal victory. This is the second time ever the Bears will see Championship Weekend, the first was back in 1994. Maryland is 15-0 all time versus Brown.
Philadelphia Area Locals
There are a few players returning to Philadelphia from both squads this weekend. Brown’s attackman Henry Blynn and FOGO Will Gural are both Haverford School graduates, while Stephen Hudak is out of La Salle College HS. Maryland’s Matt Rambo is also a La Salle graduate, attending his homecoming with fellow attackman Tyler Brooke (Conestoga), FOGO Jon Garino (Episcopal Academy), defender Ryan Lehman (Garnet Valley HS)
Unfortunately, one of the fastest and most dangerous offenses in Division 1 Men’s Lacrosse will have to take on their opponent without their top player, Dylan Molloy, who is out with a foot injury. Molloy has 112 points (leads NCAA) on the season (60G, 52A). His teammate, Kylor Bellistri, is second to him in the NCAA with 90 points (62G, 28A). Flynn is third on the team tallying 63 points so far with 50 goals and 13 assists. Bailey Tills has 38 points, followed closely by Brendan Caputo’s 37. Matt Graham, who has lightning speed, has recorded 28 points himself. Rural is a danger as well tallying 10 goals and five assists just this season. North Carolina native Carson Song is a tough freshman midfielder to handle as he sits with five goals and eleven assists himself. Hudak has eight points and will look to impress his hometown area come Saturday.
The dynamic poles really present a transitional problem for Maryland as they have a combined 36 points in Larken Kemp, Alec Tulett and Jake Miller. Look for these guys to push it for Brown and give the Terp defense some trouble. Brown has 25 different players with at lest one point this season.
Defensively, the Bears are lead by Senior goalie, Jack Kelly. He’s one of the top goalies in Division 1 men;s lacrosse with 209 saves and a .617 save percentage. He makes big saves and is very active both in and out of cage. The Terp offense will have a hard time trying to solve him but Kelly will have to stand on his head with this type of offensive fire power coming at him.
In front of Kelly is a strong group that work hard together and can push transition. Kemp, Tulett, Miller, James Lawrence with SSDM’s Brian Prigmore and John Yozzo-Scaperrotta communicate well, slide hard and will try to force Maryland to make the mistakes by being athletes.
Maryland has been on a tear after starting 1-2 with early season back to back losses against Yale and Notre Dame, scoring just nine goals total in both losses and have since won fifteen games in a row. The next time the Terps offense were held to under ten goals was against Michigan a month later in their 8-7 snowy win. They’ve had fifteen double digit goal wins this season, averaging 11.3 goals a game and 7.7 goals against. This offense is powered by an attack made up of Rambo (39G, 24A), Syracuse transfer Dylan Maltz (24G, 8A) and Colin Heacock (37G, 9A) cannot be overlooked. One major advantage is that Maryland will send two midfield units at you that your defense better be ready for because they are both considered first lines. Canadian Bryan Cole is a force to be recon with as he sits behind Rambo with 48 points (21G, 27A) including the game winner in their OT battle with Penn State. Connor Kelly is another offensive threat who has recorded 26 goals and twelve assists. Both Senior midfielders, Pat Young (UMBC Transfer) and Henry West, tallied twenty points each, including 28 goals combined. Two fellow midfielders that have stepped up after battling injuries for Maryland are Tim Rotanz (9G, 7A) and Lucas Gradinger (6G, 3A). They add that depth in which the second line is just as good as the first filling it with top 10 recruits. Coach Tillman has an offense that likes to score goals and will do so with a slower pace than their opponent on Saturday.
Kyle Bernlohr is a mad man between and outside of the pipes like Kelly. Figuring him out is the biggest test for the Brown offense as he has made ridiculous saves all year at the right times to keep the Terps afloat in their close wins. Matt Dunn will take on Browns Bellistri with Molloy out, Tim Muller & Mac Pons will challenge Blynn and Tills. Greg Danseglio and Bryce Young will take on the speedy midfielders at the LSM position with their four SSDM counterparts Isaiah Davis-Allen, Adam Dimillo, Wesley Janeck and Nick Manis handling the rest of the Bears offense. The Terp man-down unit is ranked third best in the country as it’s full strength squad is number one.
Garino is a stud face-off guy but has been plagued by injuries this season and will most likely not see time this coming weekend. Stepping in for him have been Austin Henningsen and Will Bonaparte who went 9-24 at the face-off X against the Orange. This may be the weak point for Maryland, but it still isn’t their achilles heal as the face-off unit took on Syracuse’s Ben Williams and still came away with a 13-9 win. They will have their hands full against Gural and their double poles.
Look for the number four ranked Maryland team to keep it a half field game if they can figure out Gural at the X. Expect long possessions for the Terps and for them to grind down the Brown defense as to not get into an up and down transitional game. Goalie play and defense are the biggest factors heading into this game as both are incredible units who have to face two high powered offenses.
Game time is set for 2:30pm at Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, PA.