Maryland men’s lacrosse routs Virginia, 12-6, to advance to NCAA Tournament championship game

PHILADELPHIA — The magic continues for Maryland men’s lacrosse.

After exceeding expectations to reach their 10th Final Four in 14 years, the No. 7 seed Terps continued to ride that momentum by upending No. 6 seed Virginia, 12-6, in an NCAA Tournament semifinal Saturday afternoon before an announced 32,269 at Lincoln Financial Field.

Maryland (11-5) earned its 17th trip to the championship game and eighth in 14 years under coach John Tillman, who succeeded Dave Cottle after the 2010 season. The team takes aim at its fifth NCAA title and first since 2022 against No. 1 seed Notre Dame in Monday’s 1 p.m. title game after the Fighting Irish (15-1) extended their winning streak to 13 games by throttling No. 5 seed Denver, 13-6, in an earlier semifinal.

Junior Eric Spanos — in his third consecutive start on attack after sophomore Braden Erksa suffered a concussion in a 19-9 loss to Penn State in a BIg Ten Tournament semifinal May 2 — amassed two goals and three assists to power the Terps, who have been fueled by an underdog mentality that played a significant role in a 16-8 rout of Ivy League champion Princeton in the first round and a 14-11 upset of No. 2 seed Duke in the quarterfinals.

Senior attackman Daniel Kelly, a Towson native and Calvert Hall graduate, scored three goals, and fifth-year senior attackman Daniel Maltz scored twice.

But the offense owed much of its success to faceoff specialist Luke Wierman. The graduate student won 15 of 22 faceoffs, scooped up a game-high 10 ground balls and scored a goal to cap a 3-0 run in a 80-second span that gave Maryland a 4-1 advantage after the first quarter.

The Terps employed a spread-the-wealth strategy to find openings against sophomore Kyle Morris, a Baltimore native and Gilman graduate who made his first career start for the Cavaliers. In addition to Wierman’s goal, junior defenseman Colin Burlace compiled one goal and one assist, Erksa came off the bench to contribute two assists and sophomore long-stick midfielder AJ Larkin, a Baltimore native and Loyola Blakefield graduate, added an assist.

After surrendering 14 goals in a four-goal loss to Virginia on March 16, the Maryland defense was impressively suffocating. Graduate student goalie Logan McNaney turned aside eight shots before giving way to junior Westin Schmidt with 1:37 left in regulation, and Burlace, an Edgewater native and St. Mary’s graduate, registered four ground balls and two caused turnovers while limiting graduate student attackman Payton Cormier — the Division I leader in career goals with 223 — to one goal on five shots and one assist.

And senior defenseman Ajax Zappitello demonstrated why he deserved to be the first non-offensive player since 2003 and seventh Terp to be named the Lt. Raymond J. Enners Outstanding Player of the Year on Thursday. Zappitello chipped in three caused turnovers and three ground balls while containing Cavaliers graduate student attackman and three-time Tewaaraton Award finalist Connor Shellenberger, who entered the game averaging 4.8 points, to two points on one goal in five attempts and one assist.

Virginia (12-6) got two goals from attackman McCabe Millon, the Reisterstown native and McDonogh graduate who set a freshman record for goals in a single season with his 40th and 41st goals. But he was the only multiple goal scorer for an offense that was held to its lowest output since Feb. 13, 2016, when that squad suffered an 11-4 defeat against Loyola Maryland.

No. 1 seed Notre Dame 13, No. 5 seed Denver 6

The Fighting Irish earned a shot at joining an exclusive club.

Graduate student attackman Pat Kavanagh’s game-high five points on three goals and two assists propelled Notre Dame to Monday’s tournament final where it will have an opportunity to capture its second national championship in a row. A win on Memorial Day would open the door for the program to join the 1978-79 and 1984-85 Johns Hopkins teams, 1988-89 and 2008-09 Syracuse squads, 1996-98 Princeton teams and 2013-14 Duke squads as repeat champions.

The Fighting Irish, who advanced to their fourth title game in school history, also got three goals and one assist by junior attackman Chris Kavanagh and three goals by graduate student midfielder Devon McLane. The offense was aided by a strong performance from the No. 2 faceoff specialist in Division I as junior Will Lynch won 18 of 23 draws and scooped up a game-high eight ground balls.

Nursing a 5-4 lead at halftime, Notre Dame outscored the Pioneers, 4-1, in the third quarter. Pat Kavanagh and senior midfielder Eric Dobson each registered a goal and an assist in that frame.

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The Fighting Irish pulled away early in the fourth quarter when they scored three unanswered goals in a span of 61 seconds, including the first two by McLane.

Senior attackman Michael Lambert and graduate student midfielder Richie Connell paced Denver (13-4) with two goals each. But the offense scored only two goals in the second half and failed to find much room to operate against a Notre Dame defense anchored by graduate student goalkeeper Liam Entenmann’s game-best 12 saves, junior short-stick defensive midfielder Ben Ramsey’s six ground balls and three caused turnovers, and sophomore long-stick midfielder Will Donovan’s three ground balls and two caused turnovers.

Pioneers senior goalie Malcolm Kleban made five of his 10 stops in the first quarter, and sophomore short-stick defensive midfielder Dan Anderson totaled three ground balls and two caused turnovers.

The setback spoiled a standout debut by Denver coach Matt Brown. Brown was only the fourth first-time head coach to guide his program to the Final Four since the format of the two semifinal games and the final being held on the same weekend was adopted in 1986, joining North Carolina’s Dave Klarmann in 1991, Syracuse’s John Desko in 1999 and Cornell’s Connor Buczek in 2022.

Brown fell short in his bid to become only the third first-time coach to lead their teams to the national championship in their inaugural seasons. Klarmann did it in 1991 and Don Zimmerman did it with Johns Hopkins in 1984.

This story will be updated.

NCAA Tournament final

Notre Dame vs. Maryland

At Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia

Monday, 1 p.m.