Earlier in the week, the defensive players ofthe Maryland men’s lacrosse team declined to shed much light on how they intended to contain Cornell star Rob Pannell.
After 60 minutes, the sixth-seeded Terps still did not have many answers for Pannell as the fifth-year senior attackman recorded a game-high seven points on four goals and three assists to power the Big Red to a convincing 16-8 victory in an NCAA tournament first-round contest before an announced 2,739 at Byrd Stadium on Sunday.
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Cornell improved to 13-3 and will meet third-seeded Ohio State (13-3), which walloped Towson (10-8), 16-6, on Sunday. That quarterfinal will take place at Byrd Stadium this Saturday at either 12 p.m. or 2:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, Maryland fell to 10-4 and will not advance to the national title game as it had in the previous two seasons. It was the most lopsided loss at home for the Terps since April 1, 2006 when Virginia cruised to a 15-5 rout, and the program’s worst loss in the NCAA tournament since May 28, 2005 when Duke enjoyed an 18-9 rout.
Maryland can point to Pannell for its untimely fate. The two-time Tewaaraton Award finalist registered a point in every quarter en route to a career best in an NCAA tournament contest.
“I think this is one of the more complete games we’ve played all season,” said Pannell, who has 40 goals and 47 assists. “We really play our best when we have a great week of practice, and our guys were focused this week. It’s always easy to be focused when you’re coming off a loss. … Offensively, we were able to score goals. I think we’ve been doing that for the most part all season, and we did a great job this week in practice preparing for Maryland and executing our game plan today.”
Shadowed by sophomore defenseman Goran Murray, Pannell posted two goals and two assists in the first half to stake the Big Red to a 6-4 lead at halftime. When the teams returned to the field for the second half, Maryland replaced Murray with senior long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt.
But Pannell scored two goals in the third quarter — including a ridiculous under-handed shovel after a 180-degree spin move — and added an assist in the final period.
“I got some reps at it,” Bernhardt said of moving from the top of the offensive zone to behind the net. “So I was pretty comfortable with it. I usually play up top obviously, and this week, they put me down there a little bit, and I got a good feeling for it. I trusted the guys behind me to do what they needed to do. Like Coach said, whether it be me or Goran, Pannell is obviously a great player.”
Pannell was aided by four goals from senior attackman Steve Mock and two goals and one assist from sophomore attackman Matt Donovan.
The Maryland defense did not get much help from the offense, which turned over the ball on four of its first five possessions of the contest. The only possession the unit turned into success was a transition goal by Bernhardt with 11:04 left in the first quarter.
Trailing 4-1 after the first period, Maryland got goals from redshirt junior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk off a pass from senior attackman Kevin Cooper with 13:24 remaining and senior midfielder John Haus courtesy of a skip pass from fifth-year senior midfielder Jake Bernhardt with 9:57 left, but that one-goal difference would be the closest the Terps would get to Cornell.
Haus led Maryland with two goals, and Cooper and Bernhardt each posted a goal and an assist, but the lack of punch that plagued the offense in the past eight contests reared its ugly head once again.
“Their kid made 12 saves, we hit a few pipes, but I thought we got a lot of very good looks,” Haus said, referring to Cornell senior goalie A.J. Fiore, who outdueled redshirt junior Niko Amato (10 stops). “We just didn’t can the ball as much as we would have liked to. … We got good shots and good opportunities. We just needed to shoot the ball a little bit better.”
Terps coach John Tillman credited the Big Red with putting the game out of reach with four goals each in the first and third quarters.
“I thought from start to finish, they played very hard, very disciplined,” he said. “They came out fast in each half and really did a great job. They definitely created some problems for us, and when they had opportunities, they made the most of them.”Notes: After opening the season with six consecutive wins, Maryland split its last six games, following each victory with a loss. … The Terps own a 13-3 advantage in the series, but had an eight-game winning streak against Cornell snapped. … The Big Red improved to 3-1 against Maryland in the NCAA tournament.