BALTIMORE (AP) — Maryland certainly took advantage of playing in its own backyard.
Niko Amato made 13 saves to anchor a suffocating defense, and the unseeded Terps rode the support of a partisan crowd of 44,039 to a 9-4 victory over fifth-seeded Duke on Saturday night to earn a spot in the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship game.
Maryland will play Virginia for the title Monday.
Amato, a redshirt freshman, made seven saves in the first half to stake the Terrapins to a 5-2 lead. He got great support from defenders Max Schmidt, Brett Schmidt and Ryder Bohlander, which held Duke scoreless for about 18 minutes in the first half and 22 in the second half.
“Our long poles are big, physical and strong. They pushed out on Duke, got sticks on their hand and let me see the type of shots I’m comfortable with stopping,” Amato said.
Grant Catalino scored three goals for Maryland (13-4), which advanced to the finals for the first time since 1998. Midfielder Joe Cummings had two goals and an assist for the Terrapins, who are seeking to capture their first national championship since 1975.
“It was unbelievable to see so much red in the stands supporting us,” Catalino said. “Every time we made a big play, the crowd went wild. I still have chills running down my spine.”
Maryland has lost in the finals five times since winning its last title. The Terps will try to end that slide against Virginia, which beat sixth-seeded Denver 14-8 in the first semifinal.
The Terrapins won the regular-season meeting against Virginia, 12-7.
“This is what we’ve worked so hard all year for, but our mission is not over yet,” Amato said. “We have a couple hours to celebrate and then we have to refocus.”
Curtis Holmes scored immediately after winning a faceoff to highlight a second quarter in which Maryland built a 3-1 lead. Zach Howell’s goal at the 9:46 mark of the third quarter cut the deficit to 5-3, but the Blue Devils didn’t score again until the closing minutes.
“Maryland was just too physical, too strong and too athletic,” Duke coach John Danowski said. “We weren’t poised enough to be successful today.”
Catalino had two goals as Maryland scored four straight during Duke Terps control possession by winning 11 of 17 faceoffs.
Dan Wigrizer made nine saves for Duke (14-6), which was denied in its bid to repeat as national champions.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)