Maryland's Max Schmidt checks Duke's Josh Dionne (1) during the first half at M&T Bank Stadium. ROB CARR - Getty Images
BALTIMORE -- Duke’s men’s lacrosse players could barely move a yard without feeling a nudge, push or knock from their Maryland opponents on Saturday evening.
The unseeded Terrapins chased down the No. 5 seed Blue Devils, thwacking arms with sticks and checking with impunity. When junior midfielder Justin Turri slipped inside late in the game, his shifty moves were met with a ferocious blow that forced him to the ground. He never got off a shot.
That hard-hitting, aggressive style led to a 9-4 Maryland victory over the defending national champions at M&T Bank Stadium in the NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse semifinal game.
The Terps (13-4) absorbed the love from a boisterous home crowd and smothered the Devils (14-6), allowing 28 shots and holding them to their fewest goals this season since a 7-3 loss to Penn on Feb. 26.
It was the third time this season the two teams had met and Saturday’s game played out more like the last meeting on April 24. In that game, the Terps rode their feisty style of play to a 11-9 victory in the ACC Championship title game.
Maryland moves into Monday’s championship final against ACC foe Virginia, a 14-8 winner over Denver in Saturday’s first semifinal game. The Terps seek the program’s third third national title, while the Cavaliers look to add their program’s fifth.
The Terps, who knocked off No. 1 seed Syracuse on May 22 in the quarterfinals, have proved undeniable in the post-season. With a defense as solid as concrete – led on Saturday by the rock-steady play of goalkeeper freshman Niko Amato (13 saves) – the Terps poured on the goals in the second half.
Maryland senior attackman Grant Catalino scored three goals, including two in the second half to push his season total to 29.
Duke, a team known for its quick-strike ability, never seemed to get its sticks swinging. Sophomore midfielder David Lawson opened the game with a shot from three feet out on an assist b Robert Rotanz.
The Devils outshot the Terps 9-6 in the first period, yet never seemed to find the connections in the box that have led to other post-season victories.
Maryland won the ground ball advantage 27-25. It was the second game in row with the Devils that they were able to secure that advantage, something the Devils marked as critical before the game.
In a low-scoring first half, Maryland attackers distinguished themselves with speed, physicality and creativity.
With Duke trying to keep the Terps outside of the paint, Maryland midfielder Kevin Cooper scooped a rebound inside and released a tough shot as he was slammed by defenders. He fell to the ground as he put in a goal that put the Terps ahead 2-1 with 13 seconds remaining in first period.
Later, the Maryland duo of Ryan Young and Joe Cummings connected on play that handed the Terps a 5-2 lead headed into halftime.
Working behind the goal, Young dumped a short pass to Cummings cutting into the crease. Cummings pump-faked with his stick and drew Duke sophomore goalkeeper Dan Wigrizer out of position.