FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When Tim Rotanz looks back at the 2015 season, which he missed because of a mysterious illness that later was diagnosed as vertigo, he scratches the thick blond beard he did not have while playing for his father, Tom, at Shoreham-Wading River High School and says thoughtfully: “Everyone on this team has gone through adversity, some hardship. Mine wasn’t a big deal. I was just a little dizzy for a year.”
After scoring three goals Monday to help No. 1 Maryland defeat No. 3 Ohio State, 9-6, and win the school’s first NCAA men’s lacrosse title since 1975 before a crowd of 28,971 at Gillette Stadium, Rotanz will be delirious for a lifetime.
“We look at the scars as opportunities and we’re proud of our scars sometimes,” Maryland coach John Tillman said, referencing the Terps’ six consecutive fruitless Final Four appearances before this one. “I remember [in 2015], we were adjacent to Denver’s locker room. We could hear them celebrating and it just kind of ripped your heart out. Our kids were in tears.”
On Monday, the Terrapins were in cheers. Dylan Maltz and Adam DiMillo scored two goals each for Maryland (16-3) and defenseman Tim Muller (Garden City) keyed a defense that held Ohio State scoreless for stretches of 24:15 and 15:29. Muller was voted most outstanding player of the Final Four.
“I don’t think I ever dreamed about that. It’s not something I go out there thinking about,” said Muller, a senior who played for Chaminade and reached four Final Fours in his career. “Playing at Maryland, it’s all about team defense. I’m more excited about winning the national championship than I am about winning an award.”
Rotanz got the Terrapins rolling with an unassisted goal that tied the score at 1 with 5:53 left in the first quarter. He scored on a nifty feed from Maltz with 5:30 left in the third quarter to make it 6-3.
Maltz and Matt Rambo, Maryland’s career goal-scoring leader with 155, scored early in the fourth to make it 8-3 before Ohio State showed its tenacity with three straight goals.
But with Buckeyes goalie Tom Carey chasing attackers in a desperate double-team, Rotanz fired into an open net to seal a championship that was a long time coming. It was the sixth hat trick of his redshirt junior season.
“The guys I played with — like Matt Rambo, Connor Kelly and Colin Heacock — are some of the greatest in Maryland history. So this was pretty special,” Rotanz said.
Those players, part of a six-man offense that features all 20-plus goal-scorers, are why Maryland has been so tough to defend this season.
“When teams are scouting us, I fall down the ladder when you’ve got guys like Matt Rambo and Connor Kelly and Colin Heacock and Dylan Maltz,” Rotanz said. “My job on the offense is to dodge a shorty [short-stick midfielder], and if they’re too afraid to slide from the other guys — which most teams are — then I’ve got to take advantage of that.”
Maryland also took advantage of a spark from faceoff man Jon Garino, who relieved Northport’s Austin Henningsen after Ohio State’s Jake Withers won 5 of 6 in the first quarter. Garino won 10 of 13 the rest of the way.
“It all started with our faceoff play. Jon was able to come in and give us some spirit winning some faceoffs back-to-back,” Muller said. “Getting possessions like that allowed our offense to control some tempo and allowed us to relax on defense so when it came to us, we could play up to speed. It was a complete game today.”
And it completed a season that Terrapin Nation has been pining for.
“It’s hard not to think about 1975,” Muller said. “Everyone was always asking, ‘Are we ever going to bring a championship back to College Park?’ To see so many alumni in the stands and be part of this is something special.”
It was downright dizzying.