May 27, 2012

Terps Top Duke as Moshpit Intensity Continues

by Matt Forman | | Twitter

NCAA Division I Men's Semifinals

* Lusby, Defense Lead Loyola to Final Four | Runkel Stays Big
* Terps Top Duke as Moshpit Intensity Continues | Snider Steps Up | Live Blog Replay

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The ringleader of the Maryland moshpit needed an IV injection after the Terrapins' 16-10 defeat of Duke, but we're happy to report he's alive and well. And so are Maryland's trademark sideline celebrations, which reached an all-time encore in Saturday's semifinal victory, sending the Terps back to the national championship for the second straight year.

Joe Cummings had a goal and three assists as the Terrapins defeated Duke in the NCAA semifinals for the second straight year.
© Kevin P. Tucker

Defensive coordinator Kevin Warne, who reacts to big defensive plays with fist pumps that could make characters from The Jersey Shore blush, fought a sinus cold and cough since Tuesday, suffering from an illness that Warne said left him "all sorts of messed up." Sickness or not, Warne still led an emotional, frenzied and inspired assembly on the Terp sideline to its most passionate merriment of the season.

"When you get to this point in the season, you push through just like you ask the kids to push through," said Warne, straining his crackled voice to speak clearly. "They missed the vein three times when they tried giving me the IV, so they said drink Gatorade for the next eight hours to recharge. I'm going to find a place in the area to get a Z-pack antibiotic too. I'm probably going to lose my mind watching film tonight. But I'd rather be watching film tonight."

Warne will be breaking down film of Loyola, which advanced to the title game with a 7-5 win over Notre Dame earlier in the day, before a full-day combined crowd of 31,774. One of the sport's storied programs has a chance to snap a 37-year national championship scoreless drought.

Relying on an incredibly efficient offense that converted more than half of its shots into scoring plays — highlighted by Seattle slinger Drew Snider's career-high four goals — and a strong defensive effort that held Duke empty on six extra-man opportunities, plus 10 saves from sophomore goalie Niko Amato, Maryland beat its ACC rival for the second time this season. The Terps also have topped the Blue Devils by a combined 11 goals in their final four matchups in consecutive seasons.

No team in NCAA men's Division I tournament history has knocked off the top three seeds in the same postseason. Maryland could become the first with a win on Monday.

Monday's championship is the first all-Maryland Memorial Day since 1979, when Johns Hopkins beat Maryland, 15-9, and it marks the first time since 2006 that the national title game will not be a regular season rematch.

To get here — more than anything else — Maryland was sparked by the energy emanating from its sideline, starting with Warne.

"We thrive off emotion through him. Coach Warne lives for the moment," defenseman Goran Murray said. "He's the guy that gets us going."

"Our bench is always high-giving each other and punching each other and all that other stuff," coach John Tillman said. "It's a lot of fun. These guys feed off the energy."

Said Warne: "You've got to be who you are when you coach. We get excited when the kids do something right. Every once in a while I hope I don't get butt-ended in the face or something like that. It's one of our greatest strengths. I know the guys look over at the bench and get all juiced up. I certainly would if I were playing. It's good for us. It's one of the things that has made us successful. It's entirely pure. It's not fake. We really thrive on it. Those guys made a name. They got some hashtags, or whatever that is. Now they've got to live up to the standard. It'll get better and better. It's just being excited for one another. That's the greatest thing."

Sideline craziness aside, Warne's impact can also be seen in Maryland's defense, which embodies the team's growth during the season.

"It symbolizes to a T what this program is about," junior long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt said. "It's about the team. It's not about any individuals. It's as much about those guys in the moshpit on the sidelines as it is about the guys on the field."

When asked how much the defense has grown since the fall, Bernhardt shook his head. "Oh man," he said, "sometimes it seemed like we might be hopeless. But they've come such a long way. That seems like it was years ago."

Having to replace its entire close defense from last year's runner-up — Max Schmidt, Brett Schmidt and Ryder Bohlander — the defense "was kind of iffy and up in the air," Bernhardt said." Bernhardt, Michael Erhardt, and short-sticks Landon Carr and David Miller, had made three combined starts in their career. Murray, a freshman, had a rough transition to college lacrosse. Sophomore Brian Cooper picked up a long pole for the first time in the spring.

But as the unit proved Sunday, it's evolved into one of the best in the country.

Did Warne think it was possible back in September?

"To be completely honest, no." Warne said. "Believe me, we had some ups and downs. We've had some bad practices where I walk home and I want to bash my head against a cement wall, and I say, 'How are we going to win a game?' Then the next day it turns around, or something will click. They're very, very coachable. One of our strengths was that we didn't have experience, but we had athletes who were willing to learn."

Warne used the word "unselfish" to describe Maryland's defense, while Murray opted for "tough, tenacious and level-headed." They're all of those things, and it translates to the offensive end.

Snider continued his tear through the NCAA tournament, scoring his 10th goal in three games, while eight other players recorded points in the win. Maryland's 16-goal effort was its second-best scoring output of the year, trailing only a 17-goal outburst in early March against Marist.

"We've kind of been picked on the last few weeks about being a stall team. We've never used that terminology," Tillman said. "In the moment, what we saw was that we had no problem with anybody going to the goal."

Senior Joe Cummings scored three goals and dished out three assists, while Owen Blye added a hat trick.

Meanwhile, Duke's season came to a close in the final four against Maryland for the second straight year. The Blue Devils out-shot the Terps (32-29) picked up more ground balls (27-23) and won the faceoff battle (15-13). But Duke's banged-up defense never seemed comfortable Saturday, and its extra-man offense struggled.

"I don't know if we played as well as we think we're capable," Duke coach John Danowski said. "The Maryland kids were sharp. They were much more confident than we were. I thought our guys backed down at times and were not as confident as they've been. But perhaps it was due to how well Maryland was playing."

And perhaps due to Maryland's sideline moxie. The Terp faithful across the country are calling: coach Warne, get healthy.

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