Maryland-Cornell Fall Ball Game a Boon for Local Springfield Community


Antonio Topouzis, a sophomore, battles with Maryland defender Ajax Zapitello on Sunday in a fall ball game.

SPRINGFIELD, Pa. — Kyle Long was all smiles signing autographs for young admirers.

The Maryland fifth-year senior was back home in Springfield, Pa., where his high school alma mater hosted a rematch of last year’s NCAA championship final between his Terrapins and Cornell. Long had never played on the new Jane Brusch/Keith Broome Field that was built after he graduated, but he relished the chance to come home and kick off his final year at Maryland.

“This is my first real competition here,” said Long. “We played maybe 50 yards that way on a grass field. It was just awesome to be out here. We have a lot of new faces.”

Despite some big changes in the cast for each team, the fall ball contest went much the same way as the title game four months ago, with Maryland jumping out to a big 7-2 lead in the second quarter. They also led 7-2 at halftime in the title game before Cornell gave them a scare in a 9-7 Maryland win that completed an unbeaten season.

Cornell scored the final three goals of the second quarter Sunday to make it 7-5 at halftime before Maryland scored six unanswered goals in the second half for a 13-5 finish with both teams subbing liberally in the second half. The teams played a fifth quarter with a running clock to get players additional experience.

Last year, the teams met in New Jersey for a fall contest. This year, Maryland and Cornell came to a new venue just over 10 miles from where both teams want to end up next Memorial Day when Philadelphia hosts the 2023 national title game.

“This is a huge event for our community,” Springfield coach Tom Lemieux said of the sellout 2,500-person crowd. “The town commissioners and police chief and the school district all chipped in to run this event. It’s a small community with a lot of houses. We wanted to make sure we did everything the right way obviously to have two premier teams like this, not just for the Springfield community, but for Delaware County and the greater Philadelphia area.”

The Terps showed a solid returning defense and had plenty of firepower even after graduating their top four scorers including Tewaaraton Award winner Logan Wisnauskas, and playing without their top returning scorer, Eric Malever.

“We’re trying to mix and match to see what works best,” Long said. “You’re not going to replace Logan Wisnauskas. You’re just not. But can we create two guys to replace him, and how do we replace that point production? Matt Rambo left, and Maryland’s been pretty good. Jared [Bernhardt] left, and Maryland’s been pretty good. Logan left, and Maryland’s pretty good. They’ll say that about the next guy and the next guy and the next guy. That’s what the Maryland program is about.”

Maryland also lost local product Eric Spanos, who redshirted last year, to an ankle injury in the first quarter, but a mix of others picked up the scoring, including two goals from his replacement, Daniel Maltz. Jack Brennan and Daniel Kelly gave Maryland a 2-0 lead before Cornell’s CJ Kirst cut the lead in half. Jack McDonald and Kelly’s second goal gave Maryland a 4-1 lead after a quarter.

“Maryland is a great team,” Kirst said. “If you don’t come out strong and don’t come out with that energy, it’s going to be tough to claw back. We definitely experienced that again today. We know if we keep working this fall it’s going to be a good spring. I’m excited to get out there and play our first game.”

Maryland got another pair of scorers in the action to start the second quarter with goals by Maltz and Owen Murphy before Cornell’s Hugh Kelleher snapped the run. After Maltz’s second goal, Cornell fought back with three straight goals from Brian Piatelli, Antonio Topouzis and a second of the game from Kirst, who is a junior.

“I think we have to realize we’re going to have to be different this year,” Maryland coach John Tillman said. “We’re going to be in a lot of grind-it-out games. It won’t be pretty at times. We’ll be in slugfests, and that’s OK.”

Six different Maryland players scored in the second half, including Kelly depositing his second. Maryland was without Malever and faceoff specialist Luke Wierman, the latter whose absence allowed Gavin Tygh to shine. Cornell, which must replace John Piatelli, did not play with attackman Michael Long, defenseman Gavin Adler or goalie Chase Ierlan. The Big Red missed their leadership on the field Sunday.

“You certainly don’t leave this scrimmage with an over-excited feel, but that’s a good thing,” Cornell coach Connor Buczek said. “There’s a lot of time before Game 1, so for us to spend a lot of time breaking down this tape and going through it and not have an opponent next week is as good as gold for us. We’re excited to dive into it and improve from this. A team as good and talented and well coached and consistent as them gives us a pretty good barometer of where we’re at.”

Logan McNaney picked up where he left off and was sharp in goal for the Terps, whose defense held up well for the first 22 minutes. Maryland returns defensive starters Brett Makar and Ajax Zappitello and used freshman Will Schaller plenty early against Cornell.

“I told the guys, Coach [Jesse] Bernhardt always does an awesome job, so trust your training,” Makar said. “We have a system of defense, so fall back on what we’ve done the last few weeks and apply it to today, which they did. You see the young guys did such a great job. Will Schaller, AJ Larkin, Colin Burlace all did the right stuff. I’m really excited about their development going forward.”

Maryland still has question marks at defensive middie, but with a strong defense returning and an attack that looks to be retooling just fine, there is time to fill in the pieces to solidify a team that again has championship aspirations.

“Obviously, last year was amazing, but this is an entirely new group of guys and a totally new experience for me,” Makar said. “That’s what’s awesome about sports — every year you have a different group of guys and different team and different dynamic. I’m just excited. And I know the guys were hungry to get out there and play against somebody different today.”


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