While Memorial Day Weekend is the beginning of the summer for all; this weekend also brings the end to the school year and many collegiate sports. One of these sports is Lacrosse. Since 1986, the final four teams left in Division I Men’s Lacrosse have been meeting in one location every Memorial Day Weekend to determine a National Champion. The venues have grown in size over the past decade from the small confines of the college campuses to the larger expanses of professional football stadiums to house the crowds of 50,000+ fans over the three day weekend. The site of this years championship weekend is Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA; home to the Philadelphia Eagles. Just three short weeks ago, the NCAA tournament started with 18 hopeful teams and has now been dwindled down to the last four standing. These four teams are Maryland, Brown, North Carolina, and Loyola (MD).
For those of you unfamiliar with this tournament, the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have dominated since its inception. The tournament has been played every year since 1971 and of the 45 national champions, all but one (Denver in 2015) have resided in the Eastern Time Zone. This national championship has also only seen 10 different champions hold its highest prize. Three of those champions, Maryland, North Carolina, and Loyola (MD), are all back this weekend looking to add another notch on their title belts. The fourth team, Brown, has never won the national championship and is making just their second appearance in the Final Four in school history.
Maryland has been in the tournament every year since 2003, a run of 14 consecutive appearances. In total, the Terps have been to the Final Four 24 times and played for the National Championship 12 of those years. They have been to the Final Four five of the last six years and played for the National Championship three of the last five years. Even with all of their recent successes, their last National Championship was 41 years ago in 1975. This Maryland Terrapins team entered this tournament three weeks ago as the #1 overall seed in the tournament. The Terps are also currently riding a nation high 15 game winning streak. They have not suffered defeat since March 5th, losing to Notre Dame who was the #1 team in the country at the time. They have looked impressive in the tournament thus far, having wins over Quinnipiac and perennial powerhouse Syracuse. This Terps team will look to end their 41 year drought and bring home the National Championship back to College Park.
The team looking to make sure Maryland’s drought continues is Brown University. This Ivy League school is a much less storied program than Maryland. They have only made 14 NCAA tournament appearances and have only made one other trip to the Final Four. This trip was back in 1994 and resulted in a semifinal loss to Princeton. Brown is the #5 overall seed and the Ivy League Champion. The Bears bring the most potent offense in all of college lacrosse with them this weekend, scoring 16.44 goals per game; almost three more per game than their next closest opponent. They have shown this potent offense in their first two games scoring 17 and 11 in wins over Johns Hopkins and Navy. Brown will look to make their first ever appearance in the title game and bring the trophy to Providence for the first time in school history.
Another team looking to end their own National Championship drought is the North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC is comparable to the Maryland Terrapins in the sense that the program has had continued success at the collegiate level but, unlike Maryland, has not been able to get out of the NCAA Quarterfinals as of recently. With the Tar Heels win last weekend, they ended a 23 year Final Four drought. Since finishing as the runner-up in 1993, UNC had made 15 NCAA Tournament appearances, 9 trips to the Quarterfinals, but had no Final Four appearances. Their last National Championship came in 1991. The Tar Heels come into this tournament unseeded and look to become the first unseeded team to win the National Championship. North Carolina has already knocked off Marquette and Notre Dame to advance to the Final Four and will look to knock off Loyola (MD) on Saturday and end another 23 year drought.
Loyola (MD) made their 20th NCAA Tournament appearance this year and will be making their 4th trip to the Final Four. The Greyhounds have not always been playing at the same level as these other three schools. Up until 1982, they played lacrosse at the Division II level. Loyola may not as many as the accolades as Maryland and North Carolina but they have proven they belong up there with the best college lacrosse programs in the country. The last time Loyola was playing on this weekend was in 2012 when they beat the Maryland Terrapins to win their programs one and only National Championship. Loyola is #7 overall seed and has a top 10 defense. They held down two top 25 offenses in the country by beating Duke and Towson. Loyola will look to get back to the title game for the third time in program history and have a rematch of 2012 with the Maryland Terrapins.
The semifinal match-ups will start with North Carolina vs. Loyola (MD) on Saturday afternoon at 12:00 pm, EST and will finish up with Maryland vs. Brown at 2:30 pm, EST. Both match-ups will be full of excitement. Maryland will look to continue their winning streak and keep their dreams of ending their National Championship drought alive. Brown will be looking to make their first ever title game appearance and get a taste of what these other three programs have already had. North Carolina will look to end a drought of their own and get rid of any doubt of this being a championship program. Loyola (MD) will look to continue to show the lacrosse world that they belong in the conversation when talking about the great programs of Division I lacrosse.
Being that I live and die by the Red, Black, and Yellow and the Maryland Terrapins, I have only one prediction of the outcomes this weekend. That prediction; is that the Terps finally get it done in Philadelphia this weekend and end the 41 year drought.
Maryland, we’re all behind you…
Photo Credit: Rick Schultz/Associated Press