Monday’s national championship game between Virginia and Maryland is one that has become an “instant classic.” Both teams traded body blows throughout, with the Terps rattling off the last four goals of the game as they cut a five-goal lead to one. The Hoos came out on top (more on how in a minute), beating Maryland 17-16 and winning the program’s 7th NCAA title. Virginia became the first team to go back-to-back since Duke did in in 2013-14, despite having a weird gap year for the COVID-19 cancelled season.
There were many moments that made the title possible, so let’s take a look at a few that stand out.
Cormier goal before halftime
In a game of runs, Virginia always had an answer. The first quarter was a back-and-forth affair before the Hoos turned a 4-4 tie into an 8-4 lead with 8:33 to play in the second quarter. Maryland responded with three straight goals to make it a one-goal game just over three minutes later. Thanks to a turnover from Maryland’s Jared Bernhardt with 1:35 left, Virginia was able to clear the ball and take a timeout to prep for one last play of the half.
Connor Shellenberger worked the clock down to 30 seconds before initiating the offense. He found Payton Cormier drifting towards the goal, and the Oaktown Ox deposited the ball past the Maryland keeper. This sent the Hoos into the break up 9-7 and with some momentum.
Virginia led 11-8 with 12:39 to play in the third quarter. Then, another Maryland run happened. This time it was three goals, and it evened the score at 11-11 at the 9:11 mark. It was the first tie since it was 4-4 at the end of the first quarter, and momentum felt squarely in Maryland’s corner.
The Cavaliers won the ensuing face off on a violation, and Peter Garno put the Hoos right back on top. This goal kicked off a five-goal run, giving Virginia momentum and enough of a lead (save one late goal from Moore) to withstand a fourth quarter run.
Rode’s momentum-keeping save
After Garno’s goal, Maryland got possession off of a violation against Petey LaSalla. Needing a big stop to keep that hard-earned momentum, Alex Rode got his left thigh in front of a shot from Griffin Brown. Fifty seconds later, Shellenberger beat Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Nick Grill on the crease, rolling inside for a goal and a 13-11 lead.
GOAL!!!— National Champs (@UVAMensLax) May 31, 2021
Hat-Trick for Shellenberger as the rookie takes it himself. UVA leads, 13-11, with 6:25 left in the third. #GoHoos
Watch the Game Live on ESPN2: https://t.co/L8L9b2hbd0 pic.twitter.com/3tkkL1OxOK
Wayer’s crucial GB
There has been a lot of talk — and rightfully so — about first year defender Cole Kastner. Well, there has been another big first year defender making big plays, and Ben Wayer came up with a huge one on Monday. Holding onto a slim 16-15 lead, Virginia was reeling. The Terps had scored four straight, and with just under four minutes to play, there was plenty of time to tie things up. Petey LaSalla looked to have the face off won, but he missed the ground ball as the MD face off guy was on his back.
In swoops Wayer. He came in off the wing, and in one move, snags the ball. He takes a couple cradles, then dishes the ball back in the defensive end to Kastner. He then finds fellow defender Cade Saustad, who takes the ball over midfield before passing it to SSDM Grayson Sallade.
Saustad ground ball and assist to Moore
Instead of immediately returning to the defensive end, Saustad slowed down to watch the play develop. Right after catching the ball, Sallade is tripped, which draws a flag from the officials. With the ball on the ground, Saustad surveyed the scene and nabbed possession in stride. He gets a couple steps on Roman Puglise, and it’s a 2-on-1 with Saustad and Moore against Brett Makar.
Saustad makes the timely pass to Moore — a much better decision than a low-angle shot — and the All-American attackman scored the eventual game-winner. Pretty big moment.
Maryland wastes time with a flag down
Late in the fourth quarter, Dox Aitken unloaded a shot. Virginia held onto a two-goal lead, and Maryland goalkeeper Logan McNaney made a big save to make sure it didn’t become three goals. Terp defender Brett Makar got the ground ball on the ricochet with 2:14 left on the clock. Matt Moore went for the aggressive ride to force a turnover, but he was a little too aggressive and earned a flag for a hold. Maryland got the ground ball, so the flag was delayed. Rather than throw it out of bounds to get that advantage sooner, Maryland burned about 40 seconds, letting the clock tick down to 1:36 before Moore headed to the sidelines.
Virginia was able to kill the penalty, but Maryland could have potentially had more time with a bigger advantage sooner.
Double-blocks by Kology
Fourth year defender Kyle Kology was willing to sacrifice his body to get the win on Monday. Up two with just over a minute left in the fourth quarter, the Virginia defense was trying to hold on for dear life against the No. 2 offense in the country. The Terps moved the ball around to an open Bubba Fairman, and he wound up for a shot. Kology takes a running jump, leaping in front of the shot that caroms off his upper thigh. Sixteen seconds later, he was credited with another blocked shot. Although the Terps would eventually score with 10.9 seconds left, it denied them more time to try and tie the game.
Save on Bernhardt with 38 seconds left
After Virginia took a timeout, still clinging to the aforementioned 17-15 lead, Maryland got the ball to their superstar. Bernhardt is far and away the favorite to win the Tewaaraton, and the Hoos — namely Saustad — had done a fantastic job in limiting him to two goals and two assists, with just one assist in the second half. Out of the timeout, Bernhardt used a pick to get just enough space to let off a hard shot towards cage.
Rode saw it the whole way, getting the save and getting it to Kology. Maryland would eventually get a goal after the referee wrongly gave possession to the Terps despite Moore being closer to the end line on Kology’s field-length shot at the open goal, but this was a big save at a big time.
Rode’s game-clinching save
You knew it was coming. Up by just one goal with 10 seconds on the clock, Maryland’s face off guy Luke Wierman won the ball forward to himself (also known as the worst case scenario). Rode had struggled on the afternoon by his standards, but his 12th and final save of the day secured the title.
“I had a rough day,” Rode said after the game. “Wasn’t my best day in goal, and our defense actually played great. FOGO took a shot and I was a little nervous — thought I owed my team a couple — and luckily it hit me in the body. Defense played great, shooting that FOGO down the middle and giving them a shot that I hopefully can save. Really all power to them.”
Kastner’s ground ball in traffic was monumental, keeping Maryland from a garbage put-back goal that would force overtime.