Maryland was safely in the NCAA tournament when it collected an ACC title late last month.
Its chances of earning a home game were severely damaged nearly two weeks later in its regular season finale.
The Terrapins couldn’t withstand an off-peak performance, stumbling to a 10-8 loss to Colgate to leave its postseason plans in question.
“I know what we’re capable of and I really think it’s a talented team and a good group of guys,” coach John Tillman said. “We just didn’t have our A game today.”
Maryland (10-4) was particularly damaged by transition, yielding two goals to poles and another as the Raiders (11-5) made a substitution.
In addition, attackman Grant Catalino (undisclosed injury) and midfielder Joe Cummings (right arm) sat out with injuries. Tillman declined to elaborate on the specifics of the ailments, but insisted both would return at some point this month.
“It’s always a huge impact when your two leading goal scorers are out,” attackman Ryan Young said. “They’re coming back soon, and even with them out, we have a lot of capable guys.”
Colgate, which itself was playing to preserve its postseason hopes, never trailed after an unorthodox week. Coach Jim Nagle said the Raiders, who were in the midst of final exams, had multiple days of shortened practices before hopping on a bus and making the trip south.
It worked considering Colgate notched its third victory over a major program in the season’s final weekend in the last five years. The Raiders also defeated Syracuse to close out the 2007 and 2008 regular seasons.
The difference was the second quarter, when Colgate produced a four-goal spurt in a two-minute span to assume a 6-2 lead. The Terps eventually forged ties at 6-6, 7-7 and 8-8, but was forced to play from behind.
“That was a little dagger to the heart,” Young said.
So, too, might Sunday’s selection show.
The Terps defeated North Carolina and Duke to wrap up the ACC tournament last month and substantially improve its resume. But the loss to the Raiders was a squandered opportunity to effectively lock up a home game for next weekend’s first round.
“It’s May and the way you have to play in May, the level has to be high because everybody is peaking at the right time,” Tillman said. “For everybody, it’s win or go home. We really told our guys, they are the hungry dog and the hungry dog fights best. If these guys lose, they’re done. That gives you a little more edge.”
Colgate took the lead for good with 2:12 remaining on Ben McCabe’s goal. The Raiders won the ensuing faceoff, called timeout and capped the possession with a Peter Baum goal to extend their lead to 10-8.
The Terps, who committed 14 turnovers and took only 27 shots, managed a shot off the pipe in the final minute before Colgate streamed onto the field to celebrate.
“With a win today, I don’t think anybody can keep us out,” Nagle said of his team’s tournament prospects.
That’s no sure thing – the Raiders didn’t own a top-20 win before Saturday, and losses to Vermont and Binghamton could prove damaging. But while the Terps can feel certain they’ll be in the postseason, they know a rerun of their most recent outing will ensure a short stay in May.
“We came out a little flat, mainly the second quarter,” Young said. “I don’t think it was anything with us being rusty. They just came out, they’re a good team and got a good win.”