Terps Win as a Team, Lose as a Program
Maryland players console each other Monday following their 9-7 NCAA championship game loss to Virginia.
And so it continues.
The most infamous championship drought in college lacrosse just got a year older. Maryland, one of the game's so-called traditional powers, has now gone 36 years since winning its last national championship. Who could have possibly guessed that after the Terps claimed their second NCAA title in three years with their win over Navy in the 1975 final?
The Terps have come close a number of times during the previous 36 years, but circumstances always seem to conspire against them. There were runner-up finishes in 1976, 1979 and three more during a four-year stretch in the 1990s. Each time, they had to stand aside after the handshakes to watch their opponent hoist the walnut and bronze NCAA trophy. To add insult to injury, two of those championship game losses came on their home turf at Byrd Stadium.
The stars seemed to align this time around. A strong senior class provided leadership on and off the field. A resilient attitude carried Maryland through a season of ups and downs. And the championship was being played in Baltimore before a lopsided, pro-Terrapin crowd.
The names and faces have changed through the years, but the sad history continues. The figurative champagne remains on ice.
First-year coach John Tillman now knows the same heartache experienced by predecessors Dino Mattessich, Dick Edell and Dave Cottle through the years. Two of them were at M&T Bank Stadium on Monday, hoping to see the Terps put an end to the streak.
Seventeen seniors walked off the field Monday feeling the same agony that so many other seniors have also known following their final games. Did former standouts Joe Walters, Bill McGlone, Dan Groot and Mike Mollet share Ryan Young's hurt Monday?
For that matter, did the Ritz brothers, Alford brothers, Healy brothers and Phipps brothers feel the pain of the Byles and Bernhardts? It's still a brotherhood, right?
You wish Bob Boneillo, Peter Worstell, Jim Wilkerson or Brandon Hanley had just the right words to sooth Grant Catalino's hurt. Once a team scoring leader, always a team scoring leader.
You wonder if past faceoff specialists like Todd Ensor, Andy Claxton, Brian Haggerty and Brian Carroll are thinking about Curtis Holmes right now? Nobody understands the grunts at the "X" better than each other.
Will prior cage stalwarts Kevin O'Leary, Brian Dougherty, Pat McGinnis and Danny McCormick share this moment with Niko Amato? Will one of them tell him that he did all he could to get his team over the hump, and that he will have another chance next year?
Will Joe Cinosky, Brian Reese or Michael Howley have the right words to ease Brett Schmidt's frustrations after holding a national player of the year candidate virtually scoreless in the biggest game of the year and still coming up just short?
Will Jim Beardmore, Rob Chomo, Andrew Whipple or Matt Hahn help lift Joe Cummings, who would gladly trade individual honors like an All-ACC selection for the ultimate team prize?
You wonder if athletics director Kevin Anderson will get calls of empathy from Lew Perkins, Andy Geiger or Dick Dull. Maybe they'll all get together at some point to lament the one that got away. You wonder if somebody will remember to invite Debbie Yow.
The 2011 Terrapins wanted to win this title themselves, no doubt, but also for so many of these other alums who have travelled down the same path. Tillman said as much following the game.
"It wasn't just about them," he said. "We wanted to do it for all those guys who came before us.
"We didn't look at [the streak] as looming over our heads. We looked at it as, 'We want to do something special for some other people.' And that speaks volumes for the character of our guys."
And so it continues. Terrapin Nation turns to a familiar refrain after another yet another heartbreak.
Wait 'til next year.