“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk
Memorial Day is a time to take pause and reflect no matter where you are, including the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse final at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut. For the #1 seed Maryland Terrapins, a few extra memories followed them into this game – memories upon which they no longer wished to reflect. Making their tenth finals appearance since 1995, eight of those nine previous championship appearances would end in heartbreak. The lone victory came in 2017, with the most recent heartbreak coming last year.
Now just one obstacle remained between this team and eternal glory: the upstart #7 seed Cornell Big Red. With a win, Maryland would be 18-0, completing the 14th undefeated season in NCAA history, and the first since 2006. The Terrapins would also exact a small measure of revenge against Cornell, albeit in a “full-circle” sort of way. These two schools vied for the very first NCAA men’s lacrosse championship in 1971, with the Big Red coming out on top over 50 years ago.
The championship matchup did not disappoint. Maryland got a four-goal performance from Anthony DeMaio, the lone holdover from the 2017 National Championship squad. The Terrapins then withstood an offensive drought for nearly 27 minutes, and a furious second-half rally from Cornell to prevail 9-7. The title is the fourth in Maryland’s history, and their second in the last six years. Cornell finishes the season 14-5; it is the school’s fifth runner-up result, having won titles in 1971, 1976, and 1977.
Slow and Steady
Effects from the rain delays in their Final Four matchups seemed to be on display from the get-go, particularly for Maryland. The Terrapins uncharacteristically committed four turnovers and were outshot 11-7 by Cornell in the first quarter. CJ Kirst (2g, 1a; 7:32) opened the scoring for Cornell. Eric Malever (1g, 1a; 9:13) equalized for Maryland. DeMaio (4g, 1a) then singlehandedly took over the final three and a half minutes of the first quarter, notching a natural hat trick (11:39; 12:27; 13:48 power play). After 15 minutes, and in spite of the lack of synchronicity, the Terrapins led Cornell 4-1.
Maryland defender Owen Prybylski made the most of his only shot of the game, beating Cornell netminder Chayse Ierlan at the 2:00 minute mark of the second quarter to extend the lead to 5-1. Kirst (3:11) ended the Maryland run with his second of the game. DeMaio would finish a stellar half in his final collegiate game with his fourth goal at 10:06. Logan Wisnauskas (2g, 2a), Maryland’s all-time leading scorer, would then net the first of his two goals at 13:48 to put the Terrapins up 7-2 going into halftime. Cornell would once again outshoot Maryland 10-9, but Terrapins goalie Logan McNaney was up to the task, making 10 total saves in the first half.
Big Red Comeback
The third quarter began with Wisnauskas (2:23) adding his second and Jonathan Donville (3:05) finding twine to make it 9-2. With the way the Terrapins seemed to cruise to every victory this season, it was easy for most viewers, both in the stands and watching on tv, to think the game was out of reach for Cornell. What no one expected was Donville’s goal being the last one Maryland would score with almost 27 minutes of game time left. The Big Red could only manage one goal in the third quarter, with Aiden Blake beginning the Cornell comeback at 10:26.
Michael Long (1g) closed the gap to 9-4 just 54 seconds into the final frame. Markers from Hugh Kelleher (6:54) and Spencer Wirtheim (1g, 1a; 7:33) cut the deficit to three. Cornell’s leading scorer John Piatelli, who earlier in the game had a goal called back due to a crease violation, finally got onto the board with his 66th goal of the season (setting a new Big Red school record) at 14:24. But Maryland won the ensuing faceoff and ran out the clock to cement their place among the greatest teams in NCAA lacrosse history.
Other Stats of Note
- McNaney (MD): 17 saves; 36 total saves in 2 Championship Weekend games; named Championship MVP
- Ierlan (COR): 9 saves
- Luke Wierman (MD): 13 of 28 on faceoffs; 8 ground balls (led all players)
- Ground Balls: MD 43; COR 32
- Turnovers: MD 22; COR 14
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“Muffler” Mike Kostiuk was formally introduced to box lacrosse when he attended a New England Black Wolves game on a whim in 2016. Instantly hooked, he has since become an avid follower of the National Lacrosse League. Following the postponement of the 2019-2020 NLL season, he was offered the chance to share his wealth of statistical knowledge and unique insights with the lacrosse community at large. He cheerfully accepted, and currently serves as Edge of Philly’s correspondent for both the Albany FireWolves and New York Riptide.