Maryland Follows Familiar Formula in First-Round Win over Vermont


Maryland's Logan Wisnauskas dodges against Vermont's Colin Sharkey in an NCAA tournament first-round game Sunday in College Park, Md.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — It’s a Maryland postseason tradition like few others. Putter about around .500 on faceoffs throughout the season. Encounter a dominant player at the X in the NCAA tournament. Get the better of him (or come close) and move along to the next round.

The third-seeded Terrapins broke out their championship-winning formula from 2017 on Sunday, winning 20 of 32 faceoffs in a 17-11 defeat of Vermont before 2,735 at Maryland Stadium.

Jared Bernhardt scored six goals and added an assist and Kyle Long added three goals and an assist for Maryland (13-0), which will visit sixth-seeded Notre Dame (8-3) in next Sunday’s quarterfinals.

But the key performance was Justin Shockey’s. The senior overcame a couple early violations to win 19 of 28 draws — most against Catamount sophomore Tommy Burke, who won 72 percent of his attempts in the regular season — to ensure Maryland wouldn’t face a possession disparity against the feisty America East champions.

“The faceoff thing was going to make or break how the game went,” coach John Tillman said. “They got two goals with less than five seconds on the shot clock. They jammed it inside and scored. If they get 60 percent, who knows how many possessions we get and all the sudden this thing is a dogfight. For Justin to work his way through it was really impressive.”

Thomas McConvey had four goals and two assists for Vermont (9-5), which was making its first NCAA tournament appearance.

At times, the Catamounts’ postseason inexperience showed — and never more than a sloppy first half when they had more turnovers (15) than shots (13). Vermont averaged 47.3 shots on the season, but managed only 30 against the Terps.

Maryland was disruptive from the jump in its first outing of the year against a team outside of the Big Ten. The Terps forced 12 of Vermont’s 22 turnovers.

“We’re just trying to dictate tempo, play our game, play Maryland lacrosse,” said junior long pole John Geppert, who forced four turnovers. “When you look back at the tape, Maryland lacrosse really comes down to defense and chasing people around and making them uncomfortable, and I thought we did a really good job of doing that today. It’s something we’ve been focusing on all year, but today we put it together a little bit more.”

Despite its penchant for giveaways, Vermont was in a 2-2 game until the Terps unloaded a five-goal barrage. Three came in a 69-second span late in the first quarter — Bernhardt and midfielder Joshua Coffman in transition, and then Bernhardt again — before scoring twice to open the second period to make it 7-2.

The Catamounts never sliced the margin to less than three the rest of the way.

“Those three goals at the end of the first quarter really gave them a cushion and allowed them to just play with that cushion the rest of the game and not look back,” coach Chris Feifs said. “When we weren’t winning as many faceoffs as we typically do, it put a lot of pressure on some of our guys to make plays. Give credit to their defense; they were really well-organized and aggressive and opportunistic.”

Coupled with Shockey’s work against Burke (who finished 11-for-26), it meant Maryland could create plenty of unsettled chances. And that ignited the Terps’ game-clinching burst.

After Vermont closed within 8-5 in the third quarter, defensive midfielder Alex Smith fired a dart of an outlet pass on a quick restart to Coffman, who then found Bernhardt near the crease. The Terps would score five of six goals to take a 13-6 lead into the final 10 minutes.

“We had a pretty solid game plan going in defensively,” said goalie Ryan Cornell, who made 12 saves and added he planned to return next year for a fifth season. “We definitely saw a little more transition than we would have liked. I think we did pretty well in the 6-on-6. I didn’t really see anything I wasn’t expecting.”

Still, the result didn’t spoil what was a breakthrough season for the Catamounts, who won four in a row late in the season — two apiece against Albany and Stony Brook — to earn their first NCAA appearance.

“What it comes down to is playing a better game,” Feifs said. “You can’t skip steps. As much as I wanted to upset Maryland in the first round today and take it to another level, I knew it was going to be a tough task. We all did.”

The Terps couldn’t skip anything, either, and had no desire to after the abrupt mid-March ending everyone experienced a year ago. Maryland has slogged its way through its share of first-round games over the years, and not just when they were unseeded like in 2019 at Towson.

Even as a No. 1 seed in 2016 (against Quinnipiac), 2017 (against Bryant) and 2018 (against Robert Morris), the Terps needed time to get traction and finally put away opponents from one-bid leagues. By early in the second quarter Sunday, they seemed in complete control.

“You have to take advantage of those opportunities, and this group has done a good job with that,” Tillman said. “They’ve kind of been more focused than in other years during this week because this week is a tough academic week. These guys were really lasered in.”

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