Many NCAA lacrosse fans chide the ACC for their four-team conference (Virginia, Maryland, Duke, North Carolina) and the way it props each team up come tourney time. Unfortunately for the naysayers, the ACC also proved its worth this year against everyone else.
The Virginia Cavaliers (12-5) will take on the Maryland Terrapins (13-4) for the 2011 NCAA Lacrosse National Title at 3:30 p.m. EST in M&T Stadium in Baltimore. The game will be televised live on ESPN.
The Terrapins got here by defeating another ACC team, defending national champion Duke. They did so with a dominating defensive performance. Duke had 13 shots in the first half but managed only two goals. They managed only two more on the night as Terps goal Niko Amato and the Maryland defense shut down the champs.
For Maryland, it's a program-boosting opportunity. The Terrapins have long-been considered one of college lacrosse's elite programs. But unlike schools such as Syracuse, Virginia and Johns Hopkins, they've been in a Final Four and National Title drought that feel like an eternity. This season was their first Final Four appearance since 2006, their first National Title game appearance since 1998 and they're hoping to win it all for the first time since all the way back in 1975.
It's also a boost to a program that saw the third-winningest coach in school history resign last season amidst perceived lack of results. In his first season on the job, Maryland coach John Tillman has made good on those expectations.
Virginia got here by beating a non-ACC foe, Final Four-newbie Denver. They did in impressive fashion, led by perfectly-named lacrosse star Steele Stanwick. Stanwick has basically been unstoppable in the NCAA tournament so far, garnering 20 points on nine goals and 11 assists in three games. If the Terps try to clamp down on Steele, junior attackman Chris Bocklet or sophomore attackman can pick up the slack.
Virginia head coach Dom Starsia set NCAA record for most wins as a head coach (327) two weeks back in the first round of the tournament. He's hoping to keep that streak alive and add a fourth National Title (1999, 2003, 2006) to his credits as well.
Virginia and Maryland played once this season with the Terps winning 12-7 on the road. Maryland dominated the face-off battle in that one (14-8), a stat that could work to their advantage once again this time.
Maryland leads the all-time series 45-41, though Virginia has won 9 of the last 11 meetings.
This is only the second time two schools from the same conference have played in the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship and both times they were from the ACC. In 1986, Virginia to North Carolina 10-9 in overtime.