The Cornell men's lacrosse team never quit against an unbeaten Maryland team looking to make history, making a late run before falling 9-7 to the Terps on Monday afternoon in front of 22,1984 Krentschler Field in the 2022 NCAA Championship game. The Big Red's season comes to a close with a 14-5 record, an Ivy League title and as national runner-up for the fifth time in school history.
"I am so proud of this group. They've fought, they've scrapped, they've clawed. They've gotten better every day. They've committed throughout this process, and you saw throughout the course of the day, they got better as the day went on. That was probably one of our best quarters of the year in that fourth quarter, and that was against a stellar Maryland team that deserves everything that they get," said head coach Connor Buczek, The Richard M. Moran Head Coach of Cornell Men's Lacrosse.
The Big Red outscored the Terps 5-2 in the second half, had a late goal disallowed on a questionable crease call and kept the pressure on the Terrapins all afternoon, even as tournament MVP Logan McNaney made 17 saves to stymie a Big Red offense that held a 40-37 shot edge on the high-scoring Terrapins, who were held to less than half its 18.2 goals per game average. It was the first time all season Maryland was held to single-digit goals.
The offense struggled to get going, but netted five goals over the final 19:34 while the defense shut out the Terps over the final 26:05, but it wasn't enough after Maryland methodically got out to a 9-2 lead five minutes into the second half.
CJ Kirst, John Piatelli and Gavin Adler were named to the NCAA All-Tournament team for the Big Red after outstanding tournaments and seasons. Kirst had two goals and an assist, netting both of the Big Red's first half scores, while Piatelli had the final tally for Cornell. His 66th score of the season broke Mike French's 46-year-old record of 65 moments after having one waved off due to a crease violation. Adler, a consensus first-team All-American, caused a pair of turnovers and won seven ground balls to spearhead a defense that did all it could to give Cornell a shot at its fourth NCAA title. Chayse Ierlan, who had a fantastic NCAA Tournament, made nine saves in goal and had one of the Big Red's 11 caused turnovers on the day. The Big Red forced 22 Maryland miscues, including five failed clears.
In a game that had very obvious storylines around the late Richie Moran, alumni of Maryland and Hall of Fame coach at Cornell, with Big Red alums coaching both teams in Connor Buczek '15 and John Tillman '91, and the programs meeting for the third time in the NCAA championship game, the Terrapins wrote the final chapter of their storybook season with the offense early and face-offs and goalkeeping late.
McNaney made 17 saves, including 10 in the decisive first half, and Luke Wierman won 8-of-9 face-offs in the final 30 minutes to play a large part in closing out its 18-0 season. Anthony DeMaio had four goals and an assist, Logan Wisnauskas had two goals and two helpers and former Big Red captain and UM grad transfer Jon Donville scored once.
Both team's defenses were on point in the opening seven minutes, trading hustle plays, causing turnovers and forcing bad shots before CJ Kirst beat the stalemate with an alley dodge that snuck past McNaney to give Cornell a 1-0 lead with 7:28 to play.
Maryland then scored five in a row, including four over the second half of the first quarter, to push its lead to 5-1. Owen Pryblylski's pole-goal two minutes into the second punctuated the run, which was ended a minute later when Kirst cut the deficit to 5-2.
The Terps were undeterred, scoring the next four, two to close the second and two more to open the third, to build the lead to 9-2 with 11:55 to play.
Maryland wouldn't score again, but didn't need to.
Aiden Blake converted the Big Red's first goal of the third quarter when he cut to the goal and buried a pass from Piatelli to make it a 9-3 game with 4:34 remaining in the stanza. That's where it would sit entering the fourth.
Cornell won the opening face-off, its only victory of the second half, and Michael Long scored from distance off a pass from Billy Coyle at the 14:06 mark. Exactly six minutes later, Hugh Kelleher gave the Big Red its first back-to-back goals of the game with a bomb off a pass from Spencer Wirthheim, making it a 9-5 game. Wirtheim then made it three in a row with 7:27 to play when he beat his defender and cut the lead to 9-6.
The Big Red had several possessions to cut the lead further, hitting the post twice and having Piatelli's goal negated, but used a late timeout to draw up a play to get a quick goal for Piatelli, his record-breaking 66th. Maryland won the ensuing face-off with 36 seconds left and was able to run out the clock and clinch the national title.
"I think this is a jumping-off point. Certainly when we talk about things, we don't talk about things in terms of goals and trophies and end points. We just want to get better tomorrow, because if we talk about Memorial Day starting tomorrow, we just wasted 364 days. Our hope is as soon as we turn the page from this and we let this hurt a little bit that it's back to work."