The Maryland men’s lacrosse team fell short of an undefeated season by losing to Virginia, 17-16, in the national championship game at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., on May 31.
Maryland was attempting to win its fourth-ever national title, but instead the Terrapins’ season ended with their 11th runner-up finish in the NCAA Tournament.
Maryland mounted a furious comeback after Virginia went ahead, 16-11, with 11:04 left in regulation. The Terrapins scored four consecutive goals from the 6:13 to 3:57 marks to get back into the game. The goals came from senior attackman Logan Wisnauskas, sophomore attackman Daniel Maltz and senior midfielders Bubba Fairman and Anthony DeMaio during that stretch. The Cavaliers responded with a goal at the 3:35 mark to push their lead to 17-15.
DeMaio scored again with 10.8 seconds left to bring the Terrapins to within a goal. That led to the final faceoff. Maryland sophomore Luke Wierman won the draw against Petey LaSalla and quickly got himself in position for a shot on net to send the game to overtime, only Virginia goalkeeper Alex Rode made the biggest save of his life:
Thirty-three goals between the two teams is tied for the highest-scoring national title game ever.
“It’s funny, I just hugged [LaSalla]. He’s like, ‘We won the national championship and I sucked,” Virginia head coach Lars Tiffany told ESPN after the game. “I was like, ‘No, no, you were solid.’ He wants to make 15 to 20 saves a game. He thinks he should make more saves. But they’re too talented. They’re Maryland. They just bring so much good heat.”
The Terrapins (15-1) entered the 2021 season with high expectations thanks to an experienced, balanced roster. Senior attackman Jared Bernhardt returned for a fifth year following the shortened season in 2020 and set the single-season program record for goals (71) and points (99). He’s also first in program history in career marks for goals (202) and points (290). Other key seniors included Wisnauskas, DeMaio, Bubba Fairman, Nick Grill and Matt Rahill, among others.
The 2021 campaign marked an unusual one for Maryland due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Big Ten opted for its lacrosse programs to play a conference-only schedule, meaning the Terrapins played Big Ten opponents twice each in a 10-game regular season before moving on to postseason play. The closest calls Maryland had against Big Ten teams both came against Johns Hopkins — a 14-13 decision at Homewood Field April 24 and a 12-10 victory in the Big Ten tournament at Penn State.
But since the Terrapins didn’t play a nonconference schedule — and thus weren’t tested like they normally would be — the NCAA Tournament’s selection committee opted to make Maryland the No. 3 seed in the field despite an undefeated record (12-0 at the time). Regardless, the Terrapins beat Vermont and No. 6 Notre Dame in the first two rounds before defeating No. 2 Duke in the semifinals.
That led to the championship game against Virginia, which had a terrific season in its own right. The Cavaliers, who won the title in 2019, finished this season 13-5 with wins against Army, Georgetown, Loyola, Notre Dame and North Carolina (twice). Maryland had a difficult time stopping Virginia, which was led by tournament Most Outstanding Player Connor Shellenberger (four goals, two assists), Matt Moore (four, two) and Jeff Conner (three, one).
Maryland was led by Wisnauskas (Boys’ Latin), who had five goals and an assist. Bernhardt had two goals and three assists, while DeMaio and Maltz added two goals apiece as well.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics