Maryland men’s, women’s lacrosse trying to sweep titles

Maryland men's, women's lacrosse trying to sweep titles

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For the University of Maryland, Memorial Day weekend often turns into a lacrosse frenzy. Those frequent trips to the sport’s final weekend attract high-schoolers and transfers to the Terrapins’ programs, and the sustained excellence brings fans to College Park for lacrosse games on spring days. With Cathy Reese and John Tillman as the longtime leaders of these Maryland teams, the championship tradition breeds more success because everyone wants to come to a program that wins trophies. And so Final Four appearances have become the norm — more so at Maryland than anywhere else.

Maryland is the only school with teams in both the men’s and women’s Final Fours this weekend, and the Terps could sweep the titles for the second time, following their pair of national championships in 2017. themen, chasing history as one of the best teams ever, are the top seeds in the tournament and undisputed favorites to win the title Monday. The undefeated Terps, who have been winning games by an average of 9.3 goalswill have to first beat No. 5 seed Princeton, a team Maryland defeated, ​​15-10, in February.

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“What stands out about this Maryland team to me is their baseline has been so high, and they’ve kept it there from February to now,” said Quint Kessenich, a men’s lacrosse analyst for ESPN. “There have really been no lulls. … Every team in sport will throw in a clunker. And I’m still waiting for Maryland to throw in a clunker. And that goes back more than two years.”

The second-seeded women slipped early in the year against James Madison, but the Terps (19-1) have rolled through the NCAA tournament, setting up a semifinal against No. 3 Boston College. A win Friday would position the Terps to play undefeated North Carolina, the top seed, or No. 4 Northwestern, which Maryland already has beaten this year. This would be the program’s 15th NCAA title.

Reese’s team has advanced to 12 of the past 13 Final Fours, winning five championships during that stretch. Last year’s early tournament exit broke the streak, but Maryland is back to where it normally ends the season.

Since the women’s lacrosse NCAA championship began in 1982, the Terps have reached the Final Four 28 times, with 14 titles, eight runner-up finishes, just five losses in the semifinals and a to-be-determined result this weekend. During that stretch, the Maryland men have advanced to the Final Four 19 times, with only one title but eight runner-up finishes.

“They’re who we’re chasing,” midfielder Roman Puglise said of the Maryland women. “They have the championships. We don’t have as much. They’ve had more success than we’ve had, so they’re who we chase. It’s cool that both of us are in there.”

When the women’s team missed out on the Final Four last season, the men lost in the national title game against Virginia, their only defeat in the past two years. Now the programs are back on this stage together. It’s the 13th time the Maryland men and women reached the Final Four in the same year.

“For me, it’s all I’ve ever known,” Reese said of the programs’ combined success. She married a former Maryland men’s lacrosse defender and has spent decades with the Terps as a player (1995-98), assistant (1999-2003) and head coach (2007-present). Her are hers, Riley, signed to play for Maryland beginning next season, and she said, “The only color in my house is red.”

The Princeton men and women have advanced to the Final Four in the same season eight times but not since 2004. Virginia has done so six times, with the most recent in 2005. The only schools to sweep the pair of lacrosse titles are Princeton (1994 ), North Carolina (2016) and Maryland (2017). Seven times the Terps reached both championship games.

The North Carolina women (20-0) entered the tournament as the title favorite, but an 8-5 win in the quarterfinal against No. 8 seed Stony Brook made the Tar Heels seem more vulnerable.

On the men’s side, Maryland enters “as not just the prohibitive favorite but as heavy of a favorite as we’ve seen in a long time coming to championship weekend,” said Anish Shroff, a men’s lacrosse analyst for ESPN.

If the Terps lose, it would be a shocking upset, and the ESPN crew preparing to call the men’s games has been searching for comparisons outside lacrosse to convey the improbability of that outcome.

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The Division I men’s lacrosse champion has gone undefeated just three times in the past three decades. Virginia in 2006 most recently did so, and after losing to the Terps in the quarterfinal, Cavaliers Coach Lars Tiffany said his group had just faced the sport’s best team since then. Those are the teams — the historic greats of the game — that these Terps are chasing.

“This is a team that’s on [an] all-time trajectory,” Shroff said. “We’re not comparing Maryland, respectfully, to the rest of the field, to Princeton and Rutgers and Cornell. . . . They’re looking to make history. If they’re dominant over these next two games and if they win these next two games, Maryland’s ultimate legacy here is that of an all-time team.”

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