PHILADELPHIA -- Everything about this latest battle of the Cheseapeake Bay State, pitting two storied programs opposite each other in Saturday evening's NCAA Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship semifinal, delivered just as expected.
Across all 60 minutes, there was the trademark intensity and physicality from both sides that delighted the Lincoln Financial Field crowd of 29,132 time and again.
There was the unlikely turnaround from a five-goal deficit that enabled unseeded Johns Hopkins to forge a 10-10 tie with 11:45 remaining.Soon after there were a quick pair of goals from a native Philadelphian, Matt Rambo, to add some hometown flavor to the proceedings and stake sixth-seeded Maryland to a 12-10 lead with 7:24 left.
And, finally, there was a frantic last-second sequence that saw two potential game-tying opportunities for Johns Hopkins denied by a bad angle and then a brilliant save.
In the end, Maryland more than earned its place in Monday's title game opposite No. 4 Denver, surviving a challenging fourth quarter to secure a 12-11 victory in the second of two thrilling national semifinals. Denver outlasted Notre Dame in the first game 11-10 in overtime.
“Growing up, I was definitely a big Maryland fan,” said Jay Carlson, a native of Cockeysville, Maryland, who tallied a hat trick and an assist. “I've been a part of games against Hopkins; throw the record books out for that game. It's just good to be a part of another Hopkins-Maryland game.”
Before the thrilling conclusion to the 104th contest between these intrastate foes who became Big Ten Conference rivals this season, Maryland (15-3) appeared well on its way to a rare blowout victory over the Blue Jays (11-7) when Carlson's score created a 10-5 cushion with 7:28 remaining in the third.
However, this is a Johns Hopkins team that endured the death of teammate Justin Huber to pneumonia on Jan. 26 and, on a lesser note, a 4-6 start that have made each of the last eight matches elimination matches. The Blue Jays rallied to tie Maryland for the Big Ten regular-season championship after beating the Terrapins in the regular season, and then captured the conference tournament title.
Over the next 10:44, Johns Hopkins produced five unanswered goals. Three of John Crawley's team-high four goals came during this burst to reenergize the crowd.
“I think in the second half we did what this team has always done,” Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietremala said. “We answered the bell. We fought, we competed. They did what a Hopkins lacrosse team is supposed to do.”
Having watched his team's once-formidable lead dissolve, Maryland coach John Tillman recalled thinking, “We needed to be able to weather that storm.”
This set the stage for Rambo, a graduate of LaSalle Prep within city limits who grew up in nearby Glenside, Pennsylvania. After an unassisted goal with 9:49 remaining, he converted a feed from Bryan Cole with 7:24 remaining to give the Terrapins, who have nine players from the greater Philly area, a 12-10 advantage.
“Ever since I was little I've always been in the stands in the Final Four every time it came to Philly,” said Rambo, who finished with four goals and two assists. “It's finally a dream come true to come back here for the final four and the championship game here in Philly.”
Hopkins halved its deficit on a Shack Stanwick goal with 1:13 remaining, then captured the ensuing faceoff to make a once lackluster contest as fascinating as any recent battle between these perennial powers.
After the Blue Jays won the ensuing faceoff, a Stanwick shot went wide right by about a foot with :48 remaining. A turnover seconds later gave Hopkins one final opportunity before Maryland's Kyle Bernlohr, the nation's leader in goals against average, thwarted Kyle Tinney's potential tying shot with seven seconds left.
A few moments later, a turnover by the Blue Jays enabled the Terrapins to celebrate a return trip to the title game after losing last year to Duke. Maryland will now seek its first national championship since 1975 after knocking off its fiercest rival.
“We hear from the alumni a lot, speak to them on a daily basis,” Carlson said. “They really want to get a championship.”