June 23, 2024

The Maryland men’s lacrosse team experienced an unforeseen detour last week on their way to the Final Four.

The coach bus transporting the defensive players for the Terps’ NCAA quarterfinal matchup versus Duke broke down on the Cross Bronx Expressway, close to Yankee Stadium, on May 17. If you’ve ever driven the heavily traveled route, you are aware that, particularly as rush hour in New York City approaches, the atmosphere can often resemble a competitive arena made of steel, asphalt, exhaust, impatient drivers, and honking horns.

“It was 2 o’clock. The traffic is starting to build,” Maryland coach John Tillman recalled of the bus parking on the shoulder of the highway. “Cars are whizzing by.”

The Terps didn’t know how they would transport everyone to the high school field, which was an hour away, where they were scheduled to practice that afternoon. Would you please send the bus carrying the staff and offensive players who were ahead of them back to pick them up? Try to board a different bus there? Luke Wierman, the Terps faceoff taker, deadpanned, “Great situation.” After five hours of planning, they finally called Ubers to get to practice and had a late dinner at a hospitable Italian restaurant.

“It was like, ‘All right, fellas, these are life skills,’” Tillman said. “You just got to figure it out. The guys just didn’t miss a beat. At this point, when things aren’t going well, guys can just roll with it.”

The coach was talking about the logistics of getting off the expressway, but he could just have easily been describing the course of Maryland’s season.

“We weren’t the most consistent team we’ve had, but the guys were very resilient,” Tillman said.

The Terps, who have won two national titles under Tillman (in 2017 and in 2022’s undefeated campaign), are back in the Final Four for the 10th time since he took over as head coach in 2011. Maryland will play Virginia at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia in the program’s 29th NCAA semifinal appearance since the tournament began in 1971. The winner will face Denver or defending national champion Notre Dame for the national title on Monday.

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