Maryland's Sean McGuire, right, works past Duke's Michael… (Gretchen Ertl/AP )
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Maryland men’s lacrosse team is aiming for its first national title since 1975 when it faces Loyola (Md.) in the championship game on Monday at 1 p.m. at Gillette Stadium.
And among the interested observers is the coach of the 1975 Maryland team. Buddy Beardmore has been slowed by a 21-year battle with Parkinson’s. But he said in a phone interview he has watched Maryland’s progress in the playoffs on television and will be watching again with his wife, children and grandchildren when the unseeded Terrapins (12-5) face the top-seeded Greyhounds (17-1).
“I’m rooting for them to do it all,” said Beardmore, 72, from Ocean City, Md. “I’m going to sit back and root my tail off. I can’t do much else, but I’ll do that.”
The Terrapins are playing for the national title for the second consecutive season. In the title game last year, Maryland lost to No. 7 Virginia, 9-7.
The Greyhounds enter with the potent 1-2 combination on attack of fifth-year senior Eric Lusby (50 goals, 17 assists) and junior Mike Sawyer (51 goals).
In the NCAA tournament, Lusby, a Severna Park High graduate, has been a revelation: He has 13 goals on 28 shots (46.4 percent). Sawyer, meantime, is 6 for 30 (20 percent) in the tournament.
But coming up big in the postseason is nothing new for Lusby. His high school coach recalled a simple pep talk in the huddle during a timeout in the final seconds of a tied game in the region playoffs in 2007.
“We got in the huddle,” said Severna Park Coach Larry Kramer. “It was tied at nine against South River. All I said was, ‘Get the ball to Eric. One-two-three Falcons!’ ”
Lusby scored the winning goal; in his career, he helped the Falcons win two state titles.
Lusby played particularly well when he scored five goals in a 7-5 victory over Notre Dame in a semifinal on Saturday.
“He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Maryland Coach John Tillman said of Lusby. “They have a lot of confidence in him. You can tell he’s a fifth-year guy. He’s shooting the ball really well.”
One key on Monday may be what happens when Maryland takes a penalty.
Loyola has been strong in extra-man offense: It is 24 for 53 (45.3 percent) on the season. Sawyer and Lusby are strong outside shooters — they have combined for 15 extra-man goals — and sophomore Justin Ward (Old Mill) helps feed them, as he has 31 assists this year.
Meantime, Maryland’s man-down defense held Duke without a goal on Duke’s first five extra-man chances in the semifinals on Saturday night; the Blue Devils scored their only extra-man goal with 1 minute 27 seconds left to play in Maryland’s 16-10 win. Opponents have scored a goal on 21 of 63 extra-man chances.
Maryland sophomore goalie Niko Amato said he almost likes playing man-down defense.
“Man-down is pretty fun. You get to see some shots,” Amato said. “Our man-down does a good job of the guy who gets the penalty, everyone has his back. That’s what man-down is all about.”
Overall, neither team is lacking in motivation on Monday. Loyola is aiming for its first national title and is making just its second appearance in the championship game; the first resulted in a 21-9 loss to Syracuse in 1990.
When asked if Loyola had nothing to lose because it has reached the title game despite not being ranked in the top 20 in the preseason, Lusby turned the question around.
“I feel like we’re going to go into it with everything to lose,” he said, “because it’s a national championship and everyone wants to win.”
That sentiment extends beyond the current players and coaches.
“I’m a Maryland fan, I put a lot of years into that lacrosse program,” said Beardmore, who also won the program’s other national title, in 1973. “We’re all excited about [Monday]. I want them to win a national championship.”