The Final Four is set, but before we get to that, we have to look at the lacrosse that was that brought us to this point.
This weekend of quarterfinal games did not disappoint. Well, it did if you wanted upsets, because the top four seeds all advance, but three out of the four games going into overtime sets us up for a fantastic Championship weekend.
Overtime Molds Lacrosse Final Four – DI Men’s Rundown Week 15
#5 Georgetown 3 v #4 Virginia 14
Rutgers 11 v #1 North Carolina 12
Loyola 9 v #2 Duke 10
#6 Notre Dame 13 v #3 Maryland 14
During the regular season, I was tracking the non-conference records of each conference here. Now, we’ll just see how each is doing in the tournament.
*Independents & Ivy league have no teams in the tournament.
With Maryland defeating Notre Dame, it became just the third school to beat an ACC team in 2021. The Irish join Syracuse as ACC teams to lose to someone outside of the conference. Now, based on the idea that Maryland could win the national championship, the Terps could end the season with three ACC victories following a regular season where the entire conference lost just a single game.
What an incredible weekend of games. While the Virginia win over Georgetown was about as lopsided as you can get, the three other games all went into overtime, giving us some excellent lacrosse to watch. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, all four of the top seeds advanced to the Final Four, which is a repeat of 2018, when Maryland, Duke, Yale, and Albany all moved on. In that year, the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds (Yale and Duke) were in the national championship.
This is also the first time since 2014 that three of the four national semifinalists come from the same conference. That year had No. 1 seed Duke play Denver, while Maryland and Notre Dame were both in the ACC at the time and played in the other half of the bracket. The Blue Devils would go on to top the Irish, 11-9, in the title game.
But back to this year. The weekend started out with an incredibly dominant performance from Virginia over Georgetown. The Cavs didn’t go out and score right away, but they were playing at a different level from the first whistle. Despite two early penalties, they held the Hoyas scoreless until a quick goal following a faceoff. But that was it for a while. It would be 29 minutes of game time before the second goal, and by that time, UVA had potted 10. It was a stark contrast from the Georgetown team we saw a week ago. This was also definitely not the UVA team we saw against Bryant. Everything was working for the ‘Hoos.
In Saturday’s second matchup, Rutgers and North Carolina faced off in what was an exciting contest from start to finish. Both teams scored the same number of goals in each quarter in regulation, which is not something I’m sure I’ve ever seen before. Neither team ever had more than a two-goal lead at any given time. But in a game full of stars like Chris Gray, Adam Charalambides, and Connor Kirst, it was Lance Tillman who was clutch for the Tar Heels and crucial to sending the men’s lacrosse team to the Final Four, matching the same feat as the women’s squad. He entered the game with just five goals on the season but scored four on just five shots Saturday. Talk about coming up big at the right moment.
On Sunday, Duke and Loyola started things out, and while they weren’t as back-and-forth as UNC and Rutgers, they still wound up needing some extra time to finish it out. An unnecessary roughness call on Loyola all the way down at the end of the fourth quarter was crucial in this game. Duke needed only 30 seconds before Brennan O’Neill scored the man-up, game-tying goal. And just like last week, Loyola goalie Sam Shafer had another clutch save with six seconds left to force overtime. In OT, both teams had their chances, but it was a diving goal from Joe Robertson that sealed the deal for the Blue Devils. This was the fifth one-goal game for Duke this year, all of them wins, with four requiring overtime.
The last game of the weekend was Maryland and Notre Dame in a true heavyweight fight. The Irish and Terps traded runs all the way into overtime, the most notable coming during an incredible stretch of three goals in 46 seconds by Maryland in the fourth quarter to tie things up at 12. Both teams had their chances to ice things in regulation, but the Terps wasted no time in OT by winning the faceoff and scoring on their very first shot. And how did Jared Bernhardt do in this game against the Irish defense? Just a casual five goals on seven shots.
Final Four Matchups
Here’s what’s on tap for the NCAA DI men’s lacrosse Final Four next weekend:
Game 1 – #4 Virginia v #1 North Carolina | Saturday at 12 p.m. EST
Get ready for a good one. One of my favorite things about May lacrosse is when you get to see teams meet for a third time after they each won one of their previous meetings. Way back on March 11, UNC won by a score of 16-13 behind six points from Nicky Solomon and 20 saves by Colling Krieg. Game #2 was April 10: an 18-16 UVA win behind six Matt Moore assists and six points from Ian Laviano. Solomon was also held scoreless (but he did have one assist).
Game 2 – #3 Maryland v #2 Duke | Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST
OK, this should also be a good one. Both teams wound up going into overtime to reach this point. We nearly had an all-ACC men’s lacrosse Final Four, but Maryland prevented it. Instead, the national semifinals look exactly like the old-school ACC Tournament before the Big Ten existed and Syracuse and Notre Dame were in the Big East. Going into this game, Duke is 6-6 in national semifinals, but this is the fourth time these two have met in this round, with the record being a 2-2 tie. Maryland had wins win 2011 and 2012, while Duke’s semifinal victories over the Terps were back in 2005 and more recently in 2018.
The national championship game will take place Monday at 1 p.m. EST.
Catch Up on the DI Rundown
This is the 16th DI Rundown of the season. If you want to see what you missed earlier in the campaign, you’ve come to the right place.