Terps lacrosse teams back in national title hunts

The Maryland men’s and women’s lacrosse teams have made Memorial Day Weekend an annual tradition lately.

While coach Cathy Reese’s team has reached 11 straight Final Fours, John Tillman has guided his program to five straight and seven of eight National Semifinal rounds. Each team stands one win away from getting back to the last weekend of the season, although their paths to this point have been markedly different.

The Maryland Women entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed — even with their loss in the Big Ten Tournament to Northwestern — and their road to the Final Four goes through the friendly confines of Maryland Stadium (construction has moved the team from the Maryland Field Hockey Lacrosse Complex this season.) The Maryland Men entered the tournament off consecutive losses to archrival Johns Hopkins and were the only unseeded team to advance past the first weekend. Their road to the Final Four involves a trip to Towson (and a 14-13 overtime win last Sunday) and now a neutral site-game against a favored foe.

Maryland Men (12-4) vs. No. 3 Virginia (14-3), noon — Hempstead, NY (ESPNU)

None of the seniors on this team were in the program when these two schools were annual ACC foes, but junior Jared Bernhardt knows better.

“I remember watching this game when my brothers (Jake and Jesse) were here. Definitely a huge rivalry in the ACC. It (still) means a lot — you know obviously we’re not in the ACC anymore, but it’s a big game,” he said.

Bernhardt leads the Terps with 47 goals this season and had two against Towson, including the season-saving score with three seconds left in regulation. Senior Louis Dubick scored the game-winner that afternoon, and the third-generation Terp doesn’t have to be taught the Terps-Cavaliers history either.

“My grandfather’s name is above my locker, and my dad’s (name) is above the locker next to me,” he said.

I’m sure both have filled him in on the Terrapins’ onetime nearest ACC neighbor.

Rivalry or not, the Cavaliers boast a high-octane offense that ranks fifth in the nation in scoring.

“They have great parts: very athletic, very dynamic. I wouldn’t say they’re the most complicated team, but that’s a credit to Virginia,” Tillman said. “They kind of line up and they play. And you have to stop them. They’re a hard team to stop.”

Get used to these guys, too: sophomores Matt Moore (38 goals and 39 assists) and Ian Laviano (43 goals) are leading the Cavaliers in points and goals, respectively.

No. 1 Maryland Women (19-1) vs. Denver, 7 p.m. — College Park (BTN)

The Explorers may be unseeded, but they aren’t unranked. At No. 17 in the nation, they’re the ninth straight ranked foe for the Terps and also bring the top scoring defense (6.79 goals allowed per game) into College Park. But Maryland is fresh from disposing of Stony Brook, who play zone defense as well.

“Their zone’s different from Stony Brook, but Denver does it and does it well,” said Reese, who incidentally got her first head coaching job with the Explorers from 2004-06.

After falling behind 4-0 against the Seawolves and 10-4 in the Big Ten Tournament Finals, Coach Reese is looking for a stronger start this time.

“We’re focusing on moving the ball, working as a unit offensively and making sure we’re looking for the right feed, right look,” said sophomore midfielder Grace Griffin. “Even if the first look isn’t there that we’re looking for the second look and really working the defense and finding those gaps.”

Griffin ranks fifth on the team with 38 goals and 47 points; senior Jen Giles and graduate student Erica Evans have 53 goals apiece to pace an attack that averages 15.95 goals per game (fifth-best in Division I). And while the major storyline may be how the Terps try to solve Denver’s D, Maryland ranks third in the nation in scoring defense. Could we see a defensive duel under the lights at Maryland Stadium?

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