This weekend, in front of record crowds, the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse Championship hit Baltimore. In the men’s championship, the Duke Blue Devils beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The win, following the previous year’s championship win, is the first back-to-back championships since Syracuse won in 2008 and 2009. The Blue Devils beat out the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 11-9. Up the road, in Towson, Maryland, the University of Maryland’s Terps beat the Syracuse Orange 15-12. It is UMD’s 12th national title and their first win since 2010.
Coming off a 17-3 season, No. 1 seed Duke seemed to be cruising to an easy win, leading the Irish by six in the third quarter. However, true to their name, the Fighting Irish battled back to close the gap to 10-9 with under a minute left in regulation play. Duke kept their cool, and closed the game out with an insurance goal, bringing the score to 11-9 with only 23.6 seconds left in the game.
Duke’s coach, John Danowski, was intensely aware of what the team needed to do to stop Notre Dame: containment. By keeping the Irish boxed in, and cutting down their field of play, the Blue Devils were able keep scoring down. Duke kept Notre Dame scoreless in the first quarter. In fact, it was their first shut out quarter since March. The old adage, defense wins championships, remained true that day.
That is not to say that Duke let their defense do all the talking. Offense is still needed to win an NCAA lacrosse championship. Four Duke players had two goals each. They were able to score 11 goals against a goalie that had 12 saves. It could be argued that there was a little bit of referee interference as well. Duke’s face-off man may have moved early during the final face-off, but no whistle was blown.
The day before the men’s NCAA lacrosse championship, the No. 1 seeded Terps of the University of Maryland defeated the No. 2 University of Syracuse Orange in front of a record crowd at Towson University’s Johnny Unitas Stadium. By dominating on draw controls, Maryland beat Syracuse 15-12. Scoring on each of the first five draws, Maryland quickly led 5-0. Syracuse fought back to out the score at 5-4, but that was as close as the game would get.
The game was a showcase of powerhouses. Both teams had two finalists for the Tewaarton Trophy, the highest honor in lacrosse. They were Taylor Cummings and Megan Doughty on Maryland’s team, and Alyssa Murray and Kayla Treanor for Syracuse. Over 10,000 fans arrived for the game, some four hours early to tailgate. Though both teams are populated with the best, Syracuse Coach Gary Gait said that his team just could not stop Maryland from running the ball, thus winning the NCAA lacrosse championship for a 12th time.
Maryland’s win was a long time coming. They last won the championship in 2010. Last year, they were defeated by the University of North Carolina’s Tarheels 13-12. Maryland Terrapins coach Cathy Reese said that it was the heartbreak of losing that game that gave her women the drive to succeed all season.
Though the NCAA lacrosse championship hit Baltimore this weekend, it is not known the next time it will be played there. Both the men’s and women’s games will be played in Philadelphia next year.
Commentary by Bryan Levy