Selection 'Gate: Raiders Add Intrigue with Upset of Maryland
Jeff Ledwick and his Colgate teammates should be rewarded with an NCAA tournament at-large berth, head coach Jim Nagle said, on the strength of an 11-5 season, two wins over Army and a signature win Saturday over ACC champion Maryland.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- As Maryland men's lacrosse coach John Tillman was busy explaining that his team just came out flat, Colgate players and coaches gathered in one of the end zones at Byrd Stadium celebrating. At times their cheers drowned out the words of the losing coach in the cavernous Terrapins football stadium.
Fourteenth-ranked Colgate earned the right to boast with a 10-8 win on the road over sixth-ranked Maryland Saturday afternoon -- a victory which at the very least put the Raiders, now with an 11-5 record, squarely in the discussion for an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.
Colgate coach Jim Nagle took it a step further. Standing at midfield after the win Saturday, Nagle said no doubt the Raiders should be announced as one of 16 national postseason tournament teams when the bracket is made public at 9 p.m. Sunday on ESPNU.
"If they don't put us in, it's a crime," Nagle said. "I don't think there's any question. We have 11 wins and now we have a win over the ACC champion. They were talking about Harvard and Penn, I guess, but I don't see their seasons comparing to us. I had Penn going in over us before, but now not. They're 8-6; we're 11-5 with a win over the ACC champion."
The Raiders, also runners-up in last week's Patriot League tournament, certainly made the job of five-member Division I men's selection committee a bit tougher. Those two Ivy League teams, Penn and Harvard, along with Hofstra at 13-2 with two losses to Delaware, are generally regarded as in the mix for the final two at-large berths as of early Saturday night. Stony Brook's addition to the at-large pool, courtesy of a loss to Hartford in the America East championship game, could also factor into the selections.
"With a win today, I don't think anybody can keep us out," Nagle said.
Colgate raced to a 6-2 halftime lead by scoring the final four goals of the first half, including three in transition in a span of 27 seconds with less than three minutes left before the break. Long pole Dave Tucciarone scored the first, assisted by another long pole, defenseman Bobby Lawrence. The next two scores came off faceoff wins and quick pushes forward. Peter Baum scored one and John Donnally the other. Faceoff man Jim Carroll only won four first-half faceoffs (10-of-23 for the game) but those two late in the second quarter led directly to goals.
Maryland, now 10-4, played without two of their top three scorers in midfielder Joe Cummings (right arm) and attackman Grant Catalino (undisclosed injury), and couldn't keep up in the first half. Both players were held out as precautionary measures, and they are expected to return for the tournament, Tillman said after the game.
The Terrapins rallied in the third quarter, outscoring Colgate 4-1. But the Raiders played down the stretch as if they knew the word Colgate was written in bold, block letters in the NCAA tournament bubble. They went ahead 8-7 with five minutes left on a Rob Bosco goal from the low left alley in a settled situation. After Maryland's Owen Blye -- starting on attack in place of Catalino -- tied the score at 8, Colgate took the lead again. Ben McCabe scored from Baum off a rebound play to make it 9-8 with 2:12 left. Baum iced the game with 1:14 left on an individual effort coming from goal-line extended around the right side to score.
Jared Madison also had a strong effort in net for Colgate with 12 saves, the same number as Maryland's Niko Amato.
"Our backs were up against the wall trying to get in the tournament," said Baum, who led the team with two goals along with Bosco. "That was huge to be able to get that win."
The result Saturday did not carry implications of making or missing the tournament for Maryland, like it would have had Colgate lost, but the loss does create some uncertainty for the Terrapins. They went from an assured first-round home game to closer to the bubble for hosting, and thus a tougher potential quarterfinal matchup against one of the top four seeds.
Tillman passed on discussing those ideas.
"I'm focused more on ... it's May and the way you have to play in May is the level has to be high because everybody is peaking at the right time," Tillman said. "It's win or go home. We told our guys, 'They are the hungry dog, and the hungry dog hunts best.' Because if these guys lose, they're done. That gives you a little more edge. We've always been best in that situation ... We're better when our backs are to the wall. We just were a little flat today."
"It's my responsibility to get the guys ready, and I didn't get them ready," added Tillman, who was headed to Georgetown Saturday night to scout the Hoyas' game against Villanova, a likely NCAA tournament team and possible opponent for Maryland. "We weren't very sharp. Our attention to detail wasn't great. I know what we're capable of and I really believe that this a talented team and a good group of guys; we just didn't have our 'A' game today."
Colgate evidently did. Even if the Raiders did only practice for a total of 80 minutes over three days this week in part because of finals, according to Nagle.
"That spurt was really Colgate lacrosse," Baum said of the second-quarter run of transition goals that gave the Raiders the lead they needed. "That's been our M.O. all year. We've struggled at times in the settled offense, but our defensive midfield and our long sticks and faceoff men can really push the ball, and our attack can finish."
Now they hope their season isn't finished.
"Two wins over Army, two top-20 wins and we add this one," Baum said. "I think our resume speaks for itself, and I think we made a good, strong case to the committee that we should be in there. We will be watching anxiously, but I've always been told it's important what you do at the end of the year. The way we finished speaks highly of us."
Notes and quotes
Maryland players, staff and many fans wore purple in remembrance of the mother of Terrapins senior Ryan Young, Maria Young, who passed away April 17 after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Staff and fans wore purple t-shirts with the words "Forever Young" and the initials "M.Y." on the back. Players wore the shirts under their uniform and pads during warm-ups. Young was the last of 17 players honored pregame on Maryland's Senior Day. He was accompanied by his two brothers, an uncle, and two friends, and presented with a red framed jersey, as all the seniors were. ... Tillman explained his preference not to disclose the nature of the injuries to Cummings and Catalino like this: "We're not trying to be disingenuous, but we know how the other side thinks, in terms of preparation. And also if we divulge what's wrong these guys and guys tee off on them, we're setting our kids up to maybe get hurt... "That's why we've been pretty hush, hush about what, when, where and how. Because if other teams know, it makes our guys a little vulnerable. I have to protect my guys. I hope you [reporters] can respect that. I'm not trying to be like Bill Belichick or something."