One Step Closer: Maryland, Bernhardt Dominate Duke En Route to NCAA Title Game

PHOTO COURTESY OF NCAA PHOTOS


EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Maybe Maryland’s offense wasn’t completely on point from the start of Saturday’s NCAA semifinal against second-seeded Duke.

It had things figured out by halftime, and a place in the national title game all but assured shortly thereafter.

The third-seeded Terrapins kept their undefeated season alive before 13,707 at Rentschler Field, systematically picking apart the Blue Devils in a 14-5 rout. Maryland can become the first unblemished champion in the sport since 2006 with a victory on Monday.

“I think we were kind of easing into the game, a final four game,” attackman Jared Bernhardt said. “We just kind of settled down a little bit. We know what we’re capable of [when we] get the ball moving and such.”

Bernhardt had five goals and two assists for Maryland (15-0), which will meet fourth-seeded Virginia (13-4) in the final. Logan McNaney made a career-high 17 saves, and Anthony DeMaio and Logan Wisnauskas both scored twice for the Terps.

Michael Sowers and Dyson Williams both had two goals for the Blue Devils (14-3), who suffered their most lopsided postseason loss since a 17-7 setback against Syracuse in the 2009 semifinals and its smallest offensive output in any game since a 13-5 stumble against Notre Dame in 2013.

In some ways, it was an appropriate result for both teams. While it was difficult to evaluate Maryland during its Big Ten-only season relative to other contenders, there was no doubt the Terps were the most consistent team in Division I.

Only occasionally threatened and never defeated, Maryland saved perhaps its best game for an opponent coach John Tillman likened to the NBA’s Western Conference all-stars.

“From defense to faceoffs to goalie play to offense, that’s probably the best 60 minutes we played all year,” Tillman said.

While the Terps rolled to their most one-sided semifinal victory since thrashing Loyola 19-8 in 1998, Duke couldn’t get its offense on track against a Maryland defense that had answers to just about everything.

Nick Grill marked Sowers, who got his second goal in transition in the final minute. Star freshman Brennan O’Neill, defended at the start by Brett Makar, managed only a goal. And Matt Rahill drew Joe Robertson, who scored the game-winner in the Blue Devils’ quarterfinal defeat of Loyola but took only one shot against the Terps.

Duke closed out the year for a unit that averaged 14.8 goals entering Memorial Day weekend — good for third nationally — but struggled with cohesiveness all season.

“The offense never really found its place,” Duke coach John Danowski said. “We weren’t very good in transition throughout the year, and today was an example. We had a couple of opportunities in transition and it was just hard to find that right balance and that right chemistry. It was very difficult. It was good enough to get to this point, but certainly it’s something I thought we struggled with all year.”







It was already clear this wasn’t going to be an especially explosive day for Duke when it closed within 4-3 on Sowers’ goal with 5:20 left in the first half. Yet it was still plausible the Blue Devils could hang around long enough to eke out a tight victory, as they have so often this year.

Maryland was having none of it. Buoyed by Justin Shockey’s faceoff play in the second quarter, the Terps created some distance with four consecutive goals just before halftime. One was from Shockey himself, and another came from second-line midfielder Griffin Brown, a hint of the depth Maryland developed throughout the year.

“Each sequence in the game is up and down, and each team goes on runs,” defensive midfielder Terry Lindsay said of the 8-3 halftime deficit. “We weren’t backing down when that happened.”

Neither were the Terps, who fired in the first three goals of the second half to put it away. When Williams scored late in the third quarter, it ended a Duke drought of 20:12.

At the defensive end, McNaney effectively handled his business throughout the afternoon. Some of that was Duke’s shot selection, which understandably took on some urgency as things got out of hand. But it was also about as well as he had played since taking over as Maryland’s starting goalie early in the truncated 2020 season.

“I think Logan showed everybody how good he is, how underrated he is,” Grill said. “He saw shots that he wanted, but to his credit, he was saving some we probably didn’t want [him to see]. Give him all the credit in the world. We love playing for him. We trust him wholeheartedly.”

Offensively, Bernhardt had his hand in nearly everything as he added a few more feats to his already long resume. With the last of his five scores, he hit the 200-goal plateau for his career and also broke the Maryland record for points in a season. Bernhardt has 94, one more than Ray Altman had in 1963.

Bernhardt has 15 goals in this year’s tournament, breaking Mark Douglas’ school record of 13 set in 1991. The overall record is 19, established by North Carolina’s Chris Cloutier in 2016.

“Jared Bernhardt, he’s an option quarterback playing lacrosse,” Danowski said. “He’s a terrific decision-maker. He knows when to hand the ball off. He knows when to pitch it. He knows when to carry it. I think it’s the same thing in lacrosse.”

Bernhardt can wrap up his college career Monday with bookend championships; he was part of Maryland’s 2017 title team as a freshman. As for the Terps, they are in familiar territory. Maryland is playing on the final day of the season for the sixth time since 2011, Tillman’s first season in College Park.

“To get here and bring Maryland to this weekend is really important to our school and our state and our alums, and when you get here you want to play well and to have a chance to get back to Memorial Day on Monday and win,” Tillman said.

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