What a weekend! There were extraordinary ups and downs in games, in emotion and even with the weather.
We'll get to everything from the Terps' amazing run to their first ACC title since 2005 and the team's emotional trip to Long Island on Monday.
A Great Comeback
It wasn't that long ago that the Terps came back from a four-goal deficit to win a game (just last season at Georgetown for those wondering), but the 7-6 win over North Carolina in the semifinals felt different.
Maybe it was because the comeback happened entirely in the fourth quarter. Maybe it was because it was in the conference tournament. Maybe it was because there was a bit of a revenge factor, playing a team that beat Maryland earlier this season. Maybe it was because of the opportunity winning this game would give the team. Maybe it was all of the above.
For three quarters there was nothing to get excited about. Carolina was feeling pretty comfortable with a four-goal lead and watching as the Tar Heels' zone defense limited the Terps to just two goals through the first 45 minutes (47:35 to be exact).
Then something changed.
Maryland dominated the fourth quarter, out-shooting UNC 10-2 and winning the groundball battle 10-4, while Carolina committed four fourth quarter turnovers.
Fittingly it was North Carolina's own John Haus that started the run. The sophomore, who starred at Chapel Hill High School, scored on some high heat to get things going.
After Drew Snider scored off of a nice feed from Ryan Young to cut the UNC lead to 6-4, it was time for Owen Blye to shine. Blye scored back-to-back goals two minutes apart to tie the game with 5:08 to play. His first came on a great look by Joe Cummings (who entered the tournament with just one assist for the season and had two over the weekend). The second was all Blye, as he burned his defender from X and scored from around the left side of the goal. I guess it's a good thing he took Quint Kessenich's extra step to greatness to get a little more angle for the shot.
The game was tied and in the end it came down to one of the great goal scorers in program history to give Maryland it's first and only lead of the game. Grant Catalino only took two shots in the game. The first was a forgettable one from the top of the box that fortunately went wide.
The second was anything but forgettable.
As Kevin Cooper dodged hard down the right alley, Catalino cut across the crease. Cooper found him with a good pass, but Catalino's momentum was carrying him across the face of the goal. No worries. Catalino, as calmly as could be, simply whipped his stick behind his right ear for a behind the back shot that easily beat the Carolina goalie.
But with 3:04 remaining the game was far from over.
Maryland stood tall with some outstanding individual efforts amidst the team's defensive stand. Dan Burns and Brian Farrell used a picture-perfect double-team to end on Tar Heel possession. Brett Schmidt stayed with Billy Bitter and forced the three-time All-ACC attackman to take the shot Schmidt wanted. Of course, making the save on that shot was Niko Amato, who held the pipe for the big stop.
I would say that this comeback showed the Terps' determination and heart, but that wouldn't entirely be true because that's what happened on Sunday.
The Heartbeat of the Terps Leads Them to a Title
It's hard to summarize what happened on Sunday in Durham. There were a lot of key moments and players in the Terps' 11-9 victory over Duke that earned Maryland its first ACC Championship since 2005.
We'll get to those in a bit, but this one boils down to Maryland's heart and to the player who is known as the heartbeat of this Terrapin team - Ryan Young.
One goal, two assists, one groundball and two caused turnovers - that was Young's stat line for Sunday, but there's no way that you can measure his impact on that game by stats.
No one would have said anything if Young didn't play well. No one would have blamed him if he was not ready or preoccupied or mentally prepared. He would have had every excuse to just play out the string.
But that's not who Ryan Young is and his teammates know it and they rallied around their friend, teammate and brother.
It didn't start out very well. Once again Maryland found itself trailing (albeit by a seemingly pedestrian three goals this time) the Blue Devils 6-3 midway through the second quarter.
Duke might have had a three-goal lead, but the Terps never let the Blue Devils gain any real momentum thanks to key goals by Catalino, Scott LaRue and Schmidt (which was preceded by a great catch of an outlet pass by Amato).
Again, it was Haus starting the comeback with a quick score on the crease. Young made his first big mark on the game with an assist on the next score (a big outside shot by Cooper) to make it a one-goal game.
The man-up unit, which hasn't really found its groove this season, came up big and tied the score on Catalino's second goal of the game.
The Terps took their first lead of the game shortly after halftime on a rocket by Jake Bernhardt, but Duke, which had won 17 straight games on their home field, wasn't going to go away quietly and regained the lead with back-to-back goals.
But Maryland had been there, done that and wasn't fazed at all.
Cooper tied the game with his second goal of the day (the first two-goal game of his career).
From there the Terps turned to their emotional leader and Young dug down deep and gave everything he had.
First, he assisted on Travis Reed's first goal since the Towson game on March 12, finding Reed cutting to the crease on another extra-man opportunity. That goal gave Maryland a one-goal lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Less than three minutes into the fourth quarter, Haus took the ball behind the goal and saw Young cutting to the front. The pass was high (looking almost like it was intended for Catalino, who was ready to take the pass in the left slot), but Young elevated, got the ball into the top of his stick and swat it down, bouncing it through Duke goalie Dan Wigrizer to give Maryland a two-goal lead at 10-8.
I'm not sure how he got there or how he jumped just high enough to get his stick on the ball, but Young found a way. For someone playing with such a heavy heart, it's amazing he was able to jump so high.
Duke cut the lead to one with its final goal at the 10:04 mark and Catalino scored his third of the day on an odd slow bouncer to give Maryland a two-goal cushion, but in the end it was Young's goal that would go down as the game-winner.
Earlier this spring his mother, Maria, told Coach Tillman that she wanted him to promise her two things. First, that he would see to it that Ryan graduates and gets his degree (he's on pace to do just that). Second, that he would do everything he could to help Ryan win a championship.
How fitting that it would be Ryan scoring the game-winning goal - the first game-winning goal of his Terrapin career - in the championship game.
Somewhere Maria was smiling down on her son, Ryan, and the Terps.
The Unsung Heroes
Before I move on I wanted to point out some of the other efforts that made this ACC championship possible:
• What an effort by Curtis Holmes! There are not enough words to describe what he meant to this team this weekend. No one expected him to dominated Carolina's R.G. Keenan like he did last month in the regular season meeting. The 50/50 split in face-offs in the semis was solid by any standard. But that was nothing compared to his 18-of-24 performance in the title game. How do you measure what 12 extra possessions in a two-goal game mean? I'm not sure, but it's probably worth more than two goals.
• Jesse Bernhardt was everywhere on the field this weekend. He is the type of player no one wants to play against. He never backs down and keeps coming after you play, after play, after play.
• The same can be said for Burns. He finished the weekend with a combined five groundballs and two caused turnovers, but his effort on the face-off wing and defense were enough to earn him a spot on the all-tournament team.
• Kevin Cooper emerged as a legit threat this weekend and that can only be good news for the Terps. He could have shut down when his first shot in the first quarter against UNC was an easy save, but he kept battling. After assisting on the game-winner vs. Carolina, he came back to score two goals in the title game and deservedly was named to the all-tournament team.
• Niko Amato didn't have a spectacular tournament, but he came up big when it mattered most - in the fourth quarter. He made four big saves in the fourth quarters to preserve Terrapin leads. First it was a huge stop on Billy Bitter with less than two minutes remaining vs. Carolina to hold on to a one-goal lead. Then on Sunday he made all three fourth-quarter saves, stopping shots by Duke's Zach Howell, Robert Rotanz and Justin Turri, after Young's game-winning goal went in. For the weekend, Amato had a .800 save percentage in the fourth quarter.
• With all of the other things going on last weekend I don't know if many recognized how big the four-points efforts of Haus and Blye were, but I do, their coaches do and their teammates most certainly do.
• Finally, welcome back Travis Reed! He finished the weekend with a goal and two assists to pick up his first points since getting injured at Towson. Travis is extremely close with Ryan Young and is his roommate on the road. So the emotion of this week must have been hard for him as well, but Travis responded with an effort that was a fitting tribute to his friend and his mother.
Sunday's jubilation was followed by Monday's solemn funeral service for Maria Young.
The majority of the Maryland team loaded on to a bus early Monday morning and made the 250-mile trip from College Park to Manhasset, N.Y. to pay their respects to Ms. Young and show their support for their teammate. I consider myself fortunate to be among those that made the trip.
The trip up was uneventful and the bus arrived early enough to allow the team to get a quick bite to eat at a deli near the church. Seeing the fresh bagels only reminded me of the gift bags Maria made up for everyone last year when Maryland played Colgate at Manhasset High School. The bagel and cream cheese (or schmear if you prefer) she had in each bag was phenomenal.
The funeral mass at St. Mary's Church in Manhasset was a beautiful service, fitting for the beautiful woman so many gathered to remember.
Everyone has different reactions to funerals. Yesterday I felt a range of emotions from sadness to joy. For me (and this blog is solely my view on things), when some one who is strong in their faith, as Maria clearly was, passes, especially after engaging in a long illness, I can take solace (and even joy) in the fact that I know she is now in heaven.
The sadness comes in the thought that she is no longer here to be with her family and friends. She is no longer here to enjoy the great accomplishments that her sons will achieve and the great lives they will lead. I was sad because I wish she could have had more time.
Maria's impact on those around her could be seen by those that came out to pay their last respects to her and to support Ryan and his family.
But, even though she passed last Sunday, Maria had one more message for all of us. It was specific to those in attendance at the service, but is also something all of us can apply to our lives.
She had written before she passed that one day she will see all of us again and she will have one question for us - How have we showed our love for her sons? - and we better have a good answer.
Not everyone knows Michael, Ryan or Kevin, but it is a good question we can all ask - How can we show those that we love that we love them?
By profession Maria Young was a teacher, and even after she has left us she's still showing she can teach us a thing or two.
Rest in peace, Maria.
That's it for this week. No game for the Terps this week, so there are no game notes to post.
Next week we'll lighten things up a bit with some uniform news, a look at the Raiders of Colgate and maybe even get into some NCAA tournament talk.
Have a great week!