Entering the 2014 season, the expectations were high for the women's lacrosse teams at Maryland and Salisbury. Maryland had lost a double-overtime 2013 championship game to North Carolina, while Salisbury had gone undefeated en route to the program's second national championship.
The Terrapins and Sea Gulls didn't disappoint, becoming the only teams from the state of Maryland to capture NCAA lacrosse championships in 2014. On May 25, Maryland concluded its 23-1 campaign and final Atlantic Coast Conference season with a 15-12 win against Syracuse during the NCAA Division I championship game at Towson University. Earlier that same day, Salisbury rolled past Trinity, 9-5, at Gettysburg College to win the school's third NCAA Division III title out of the last five years.
"Last year, we sat up here after a heartbreaker," Maryland head coach Cathy Reese said. "I think that fueled their fire all season long. They didn't want to have that feeling again. They worked hard and just continued to get better."
The NCAA title may be just the beginning for a Maryland team that will lose one senior starter. The Terrapins, who have made the NCAA tournament for 25 straight years, including six consecutive Final Four berths, will return their entire starting attack and defensive unit.
Leading scorer Kelly McPartland, attacker Brooke Griffin, midfielder Zoe Stukenberg and defender Megan Douty should make Maryland a force again. Another returnee will be Tewaaraton Award winner Taylor Cummings.
A midfielder, Cummings was named the Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament. With an ability to win draws, score goals and find teammates for scores, Cummings is an all-around player.
The Salisbury women will try to win a third consecutive title in 2015. The Sea Gulls' 39-game winning streak, which dated to the beginning of the 2013 season, ended April 20 with a 12-8 loss to SUNY-Cortland. But coach Jim Nestor's club completed a season-ending seven-game winning streak to finish at 23-1 by beating Trinity during the NCAA final for the second straight year.
Salisbury will lose two-time All-America goalkeeper Ashton Wheatley (.514 save percentage) and leading scorer Shannon Carta (42 goals, 35 assists). But the Sea Gulls will return a solid offensive core, including attacker Shelby Nemecek, attacker Kate Haker and midfielder Bethany Baer.
Men's Lacrosse Teams Fall Short
While the Maryland and Salisbury women each brought home a championship trophy, their male counterparts didn't get to take a victory lap.
Maryland lost an 11-6 decision to Notre Dame during the national semifinals. The Terrapins, who reached the NCAA title game in 2011 and '12, were held to their second-lowest goal total of the campaign by a stout Fighting Irish defense.
Maryland should contend again next year, when it will compete in the Big Ten conference for the first time. Coach John Tillman's squad, which finished with a 13-4 record and won the ACC regular-season title, must replace leading scorer Mike Chanenchuk and four-year starting goalkeeper Niko Amato.
Salisbury's 21-2 season ended with a 12-9 loss to Tufts during the NCAA Division III championship game at M&T Bank Stadium. The Sea Gulls, who have won 10 NCAA titles since 1994, had trouble halting an efficient Tufts team, which had beaten 2013 national runner-up RIT during the national semifinals.
"I thought we had a great year," Sea Gulls head coach Jim Berkman said. "We beat Washington College twice, which was their only two losses of the season. We beat Cabrini, and won at Stevenson and Gettysburg. Most of those teams were undefeated when we played them."
Berkman will have to replace several key seniors, including goalkeeper Alex Taylor. But the returning core of midfielder Mike Kane, midfielder Sean Fitzgerald and defenseman Josh Martin should help Salisbury make another run at a national championship in 2015.
Strong On The Diamond
When the Maryland baseball team made an appearance in the 1971 NCAA tournament, Richard Nixon was the nation's president and Frank Robinson was leading the Baltimore Orioles to their third straight World Series appearance. After that NCAA experience, the Terrapin program went through a dry spell, which ended in May, when Maryland advanced to the ACC championship game for the first time since 1976 and earned an NCAA tournament berth.
Coach John Szefc's Terrapins defeated Old Dominion and host South Carolina twice to sweep the Columbia Regional, and advanced to the NCAA Super Regional round for the first time. The three-game sweep in South Carolina extended Maryland's hot streak to 14 wins out of its last 16 games.
Maryland lost two of three games against the University of Virginia during an NCAA Super Regional June 7-9, ending the year with a 40-23 overall record.
It was another productive spring for Salisbury's softball and baseball teams. The Sea Gull softball team advanced to the NCAA Division III championship round for the third time out of the last 12 seasons, before losing to defending national titlist Tufts during the three-game final round.
Coach Margie Knight's team finished with a 44-5 record. The Sea Gulls received standout offensive efforts from sophomores Paige Knussman (.516 batting average, 11 home runs, 61 RBIs) and Kim Dorsey (.422 batting average, team-leading 15 homers, 61 RBIs). On the mound, junior Rachel Johnson pitched to a 29-4 record, which included 22 complete games and 295 strikeouts. Senior Kathryn Larson finished with a 15-1 record and 1.70 ERA.
The Salisbury baseball team continued to build its reputation as one of the best Division III programs in the nation. Under the direction of retiring coach Doug Fleetwood, the Sea Gulls advanced to the NCAA College World Series for the fourth time in program history before losses to SUNY-Cortland and Southern Maine ended their season at 37-9.
The leaders of the Sea Gull offense were Kyle Hayman (team-leading .426 batting average), senior Quinn Griffith (.400, three home runs, 35 RBIs) and junior Bobby Sanzone (.350, three homers, 39 RBIs). Junior right-hander Brett Collacchi was the team's top pitcher, posting a 12-2 record with a 2.57 ERA.
New Men On The Bench
Three Maryland schools compete in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and two will enter the 2014-15 season with new head men's basketball coaches.
Michael Grant is the new head coach at Coppin State. Grant, who succeeds longtime coach Ron "Fang" Mitchell, comes to Coppin State after a six-year stint at Stillman College. He guided Stillman, an NCAA Division II program from Tuscaloosa, Ala., to a 100-73 record. Grant also helmed the men's basketball program at Southern University in Louisiana from 2003-05, and he led Central State of Ohio to three 20-win campaigns during seven seasons at his first head coaching stop.
Grant will try to resurrect a Coppin State program that has endured nine losing seasons out of the last 10 years. The Eagles, who went to the NCAA tournament four times during Mitchell's 28-year tenure, had a 12-20 mark and seventh-place finish in the MEAC during the 2013-14 season.
After finishing with a 6-24 record for 2013-14, Maryland-Eastern Shore also made a change. The school hired Bobby Collins to replace Frankie Allen, who guided the Hawks to 42 wins during his six seasons. Collins spent the past eight seasons as the head coach at Winston-Salem State, and guided the Hampton University program for four years. He steered the Pirates to the MEAC championship and an NCAA tournament berth during the 2006-07 season.
It wasn't enough for Nicole Pagano to become the all-time wins leader at Mount St. Mary's. She had to throw a no-hitter, too.
Pagano collected her record-breaking 47th-career victory with her third no-hitter, a 2-0 triumph against Sacred Heart April 5. A senior right-hander, Pagano earned 15 of her team's 19 victories in 2014, and set the school's career records for wins (53), strikeouts (662) and innings pitched (641.1). Pagano, who threw a fourth-career no-hitter April 18, against LIU-Brooklyn, established school single-season marks for victories (15), strikeouts (209) and ERA (1.18).
Pagano wasn't the only standout pitcher in the area. McDaniel's Caroline Brehm dominated opposing hitters and carried the Green Terror to a 29-17 record. A junior right-hander, Brehm finished with a 26-13 record, a 1.41 ERA, 38 complete games and 13 shutouts.
Brehm captured the Centennial Conference's Pitcher of the Year honor for the third straight season. She also led all Division III hurlers with 396 strikeouts, a McDaniel single-season record. She will enter her senior year with a program-record 1,118 strikeouts.