The Maryland Terrapins weren't supposed to be playing for the NCAA Division I Championship in 2012, but now that they're here, they are in prime position to knock out the No. 1 seed Loyola Greyhounds on Monday at 1:00 p.m. ET.
The Terrapins ran over No. 3 seed Duke 16-10 to reach the final, while the Greyhounds had a tougher time with No. 4 seed Notre Dame, eking out a 7-5 victory over the Irish.
The only close game the Terps played in the entire tournament came in their first round tilt against Lehigh, when Joe Cummings scored with just six seconds left to give Maryland an upset victory. The game-winning goal is a microcosm of Maryland's season; they got hot at the end.
In the team's semifinal victory over an very good Duke team that was 15-3 prior to their loss, Maryland got four goals from senior Drew Snider. That may make it seem like the win was a one-man show, but that couldn't be further from the truth, as John Tillman's team saw nine different players score.
Loyola is a great team and has the talent to win a national championship, but Maryland has momentum on its side. The best time to get hot is during the postseason, and the Terrapins have done just that, as they shocked powerhouses Duke and Johns Hopkins to get to this point. You could make the case that they got lucky in their win against Lehigh, but that argument doesn't work for their victory over Duke.
The Terps came out and dominated the Blue Devils from the outset, grabbing a 7-4 lead at halftime. Duke then made it close, pulling to within two at 10-8, only to see Maryland resume dominance and outscore them 6-3 in the final quarter.
Tillman's players know their victory wasn't an anomaly, as shown in this postgame statement made by Maryland goalie, Niko Amato:
"Basically I just wanted to remind these guys that we know we’re talented but I didn’t want anyone to forget that we’re an unseeded team and that we definitely want to play with a chip on our shoulder."
Throughout the game against Duke, the Blue Devils couldn't get the ball out of their zone when Maryland had possession. They couldn't even make any plays while double-teaming, as the Maryland offensive players consistently split the two defenders for a distinct advantage.
As if the Terps needed more confidence, the only game that Loyola lost this season was against Johns Hopkins, the team that Maryland beat in the second round to reach the semifinal against Duke.
It was easy to see that Maryland was the better team yesterday, and it won't be a surprise when they get on a roll early against Loyola en route to winning in upset fashion against the best team in the nation.
The only thing more dangerous than a team with momentum is an underdog that is 100 percent confident that they have what it takes to beat the best teams on the biggest stage. Maryland is both of those things, and no team is more deserving of this ending than the Terrapins, as they have shown the necessary resilience to do so all season.