Not surprisingly, the top two men’s lacrosse programs over the past five years have required overtime to pick a winner. The fourth-ranked Maryland Terrapins, struggling with injuries, made their way to leaders Virginia and defeated the Cavaliers 14-13 in overtime.
When Virginia came into play, she looked unstoppable. This offense, led by Tewaaraton leader Connor Shellenberger (1g, 2a) and surrounded by a deadly mix of marksmen, inside finishers and downhill dodging midfielders who look like linebackers, came on and led the nation in nearly every statistical category. In six games, the Cavaliers averaged 20 goals per game, had 71 percent of their shots on target and shot 43 percent overall.
In goal for the Terrapins was freshman Brian Ruppel (14 saves, 52 percent), who was thrown into the starting XI after All-American Logan McNaney injured his knee in the second game of the season.
Ruppel’s three saves in extra time and a clear defensive midfielder Nick Redd (3gb, 1ct) set up the final possession of the game.
Brian Ruppel is a maniac!!! @TerpsMLax pic.twitter.com/HWjoI6pcej
— Lacrosse Bucket (@LacrosseBucket) March 18, 2023
The game didn’t seem destined for overtime from the start. The Terrapins scored the first three goals of the game, though Luke Wierman (15-30, 1g, 1a, 8gb, 1ct) started slowly against Petey Lasalla.
Daniel Kelly (2g) received a skip pass from Kyle Long (2a) and defeated Virginia goalie Matt Nunes with a bounce shot. When Virginia chose short-stick Daniel Maltz (1g), Maltz got his defender behind the goal and smashed him past Nunes with a high shot. Two minutes later, Jack Brennan (1g, 1a) turned around behind goal. Pushing up with his left hand, Question Mark dodged his defender and hit Nunes with a low shot.
EN!!! Terps win in OT!! #Be the best https://t.co/YjWO9hnQ1q pic.twitter.com/w9NEk9UYf2
— Maryland Lacrosse (@TerpsMLax) March 18, 2023
A Virginia team yet to be challenged by an opponent was trailing 3-0 in the first quarter with nine minutes remaining. But they reacted and looked like they were about to KO the terps.
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The Cavaliers demolished a 6-0 run over the next 20 minutes of the clock, which spanned the first and second quarters. Virginia midfielders led in goals while Maryland defenders were repeatedly caught watching the ball and firing off easy shots. Eric Spanos (1g) broke the Terps’ goal doldrums with a solo dodge from behind the goal at 2:41 of the second quarter. Trailing 6-4, the Terps drew a penalty that gave them the ball to start the second half.
The Terps didn’t score on that extra-man opportunity, but Owen Murphy (1g, 1a) found Jack Koras (4g) sneaking to the front of the goal. Murphy fitted a top-down pass to Koras, who beat Nunes to put the Terps back down 6-5. Virginia would score another inside goal as the Terps’ defense again watched the ball and missed a slide.
Wierman, who fought Lasalla early on, began to stabilize the Terps’ possession. The Terps, a previously turnover-loving offense, handled the ball well with just 10 turnovers that day.
After a faceoff win, the Terps moved the ball around the Virginia defense. Newcomer Braden Erksa (2g, 1a) put his defender into a spin cycle at the extended goal line and danced across the front of the crease. He dove his shot around Nunes to put the Terps back to a 7-6 deficit.
Long then found Erksa cutting across the crease as the shot clock ticked down. Erksa caught the pass in traffic, absorbing a stick check and knocking Nunes offside. With that, the Terps ended the game at seven with 9:47 in the third quarter. On the next possession, Kelly hit the crossbar with a close-range shot. Virginia defensive midfielder Evan Zinn collected the rebound, weaved the field together and punched up Ruppel to give the Cavaliers an 8-7 lead.
This lead lasted exactly five seconds. Winning the ensuing faceoff, Wierman sped through midfield and shot a low sidewinder past Nunes to level the game at eight.
Murphy finally gave the Terps a lead on a left-handed dodge shot from the alley that handcuffed Nunes. With a little over five minutes left in the third quarter at 9-8, the Terps looked to extend their lead. Koras took a feed from Brennan and slapped Nunes to his near side, giving the Terps a 10-8 lead at 3:24.
It wouldn’t be a Maryland-Virginia game if there were no controversy. With less than 10 seconds in the third quarter, Virginia pressed for a shot. Thomas McConvey, a Vermont transfer that saw the Terps end his last two seasons in Vermont in back-to-back NCAA First Round playoff games, came under Jack McDonald and drove to the destination. He launched into the air and took a shot as he landed in the crease. He beat Ruppel with just three seconds left on the game clock. The referees huddled together for over a minute before concluding that McConvey’s shot had crossed the goal line before ending up in the crease.
The game went into the fourth quarter with the Terps leading 10-9.
Koras would sneak around behind the goal and knock Nunes down to extend Terps’ lead to 11-9. Wierman won the next faceoff, pushing down the middle of the Virginia defense. He passed to a trailing Eric Kolar (1g, 2gb) who fired a shot over Nunes’ shoulder. With a 12-9 lead at 13-14 of the fourth quarter, the Terps looked like they could pull away from the Cavaliers.
Virginia scored at 12:24 after another defensive collapse that saw a Terrapin defender lose sight of his man while he was watching the ball.
The teams then traded possessions for the next nine minutes of the clock.
Shellenberger, who frustrated and bullied Ajax Zappitello (5gb, 2ct) throughout the game, fed Griffin Schutz a high-crease goal at 3:41 of the fourth quarter that led the game to a 12-11 lead from Terps. Wierman won the next faceoff, and Koras again smashed past Nunes with a solo dodge and low shot. With 2:40 left in the game and a 13:11 lead, the Terps only needed a faceoff win or a defensive stop to stall the game.
You couldn’t get both.
McConvey backed away from his defender on low wing and he found Shellenberger alone on the backside pipe. The Terps’ second slide came too late, and Shellenberger had an easy dunk on the crease to put Virginia back down to a 13-12 deficit. Lasalla messed up the next faceoff and Virginia gained possession. McConvey swept over the tip of a pickaxe as his defender went under the screen. With his hands free, McConvey ripped a high shot past Ruppel to tie the game at 13, leaving 1:18 in the game.
The game was reminiscent of the Notre Dame game two weeks ago, where the Terps also took a two-goal lead with two minutes remaining but lost in overtime.
Wierman won the final faceoff of regulation and sprinted to the center of Virginia’s defense — just like he did against Virginia in the 2020 NCAA championship game. He finished and fired a shot that knocked Nunes down and seemingly gave the Terps a game-winning goal. However, when he started shooting, Maryland coach John Tillman called for a timeout. Although Wierman saved the shot before the final whistle, the referees waved the goal away. The Terps failed to get a shot in the last minute of the game, and the game went into overtime with 13 tied.
Wierman won the opening overtime faceoff, but the Terps failed to get a shot. That set off the epic three save barrage that Ruppel made. He denied Virginia’s best shooters two time-and-room shots from eight yards. He then threw himself over the gate to stop a Virginia shot on the doorstep.
Redd cleared the ball and the game’s final possession began. KOras edged across the field to his right. He passed to Erksa behind the goal. By this time, Koras had returned high above the top of the formation and set up a screen for Kelly. Erksa fed Kelly, who ripped a low shot past Nunes to win the game.
The terps spilled over to the other side of the field. After Kelly removed his helmet and yelled at the partisan Virginia crowd, Brennan waved goodbye to the Virginia fans and hugged Kelly.
Talk of Virginia’s historic misdemeanor and a team mocking up last year’s losses to the Terps would have to wait another day — perhaps in the NCAA tournament — or another year altogether. The Terps showed again they’re a threat for another Memorial Day run despite countless injuries – Donte Trader coming in and leaving with a leg injury – and first-year starters on the field, including a goalie in Ruppel who literally saved the day for the terps.
The Terps return to College Park to take on a Penn State team that made the national top-five rankings but lost a head-scratching game to Marquette earlier in the day. The winner of next weekend’s Penn State-Maryland game is likely the frontrunner to win the regular-season Big Ten championship.