PHILADELPHIA -- A large contingent from the Class of ‘75 converged upon Lincoln Financial Field, settling in among the thousands of Maryland fans who made the trek up I-95 north to will the Terrapins toward their first national championship since they won the program’s last Walnut and Bronze trophy in men’s lacrosse.
Unfortunately for those venerable alums, they will have to wait until at least next May for another new class of student-athletes to duplicate their past glory.
Forty years after its last men’s lacrosse title, Maryland’s latest quest ended in disappointment. Despite being rooted on by a mostly pro-Terrapin crowd of 24,215, a 10-5 defeat against No. 4 Denver Monday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field during its most anemic offensive performance of the season.
While the No. 6 Terrapins (15-4) will have its title drought extend to 41 years after its third title-match loss since 2011 and eighth since 1975 -- a drought that could end next May on this very field when Championship Weekend returns to the City of Brotherly Love -- Denver (17-2) captured its first national championship in its first final-game appearance just 17 seasons after starting its program.“We might not have capitalized when we would have liked to today, but get to this point wasn't easy,” junior defender Matt Dunn said. “Getting to this point doesn't just happen.”
If getting here was not easy, countering Denver's early attack and gritty defense proved nearly impossible. Within the first five minutes, Maryland found itself forced to rally and by the end of the first quarter, a 4-1 deficit proved insurmountable considering how the Pioneers control the game's flow.
In the aftermath, as Denver loudly celebrated in the locker room adjacent to the interview room where he spoke, Maryland coach John Tillman talked about how the Terrapins needed to revamp their championship preparation to avoid another ending like this.
“I told the kids that, when we win it's theirs,” Tillman said. “When we lose, obviously I haven't done certain things right. And candidly, when you get here, you just feel like you're trying to do everything you can to get your kids in the right spot to win, and I gotta do a better job of evaluating how we spend the time after Saturday night's game until now so we can put them in a better chance of being successful.”
Part of that will be recruiting and building additional depth -- a problem area after 2014 star Connor Cannizzaro transferred to Denver, a handful of injuries, and another handful of players who did not pan out quite as hoped.
Instead of the up-and-down game Tillman prefers, this version of the Terrapins advanced through the bracket by playing a more plodding style that served them well until Monday. Two quick tallies made it clear Denver would not fade away in its first championship game, followed by a three-goal burst to start the third quarter that ultimately relegated this team to runner-up status again.
With the likes of Dunn and junior goalie Kyle Bernlohr anchoring the defense, and junior Bryan Cole and sophomore Matt Rambo providing offensive firepower, Marylnd could very well contend for another trip to championship weekend next May.
But can the Terrapins end their championship drought? Only time will tell.
“Well, as you can probably guess, it's a very disappointing outcome, anytime you lose it's disappointing,” Dunn said. “But it's not really about just that and we knew that. We've had, like coach [said], such a phenomenal journey just getting here. And we're not satisfied with just getting here, but the journey itself was so tremendous in that it's not an all-or-nothing experience in the fact that it's a failure because we lost.
“We're very disappointed. We're going to work very hard next year and use this as motivation.”