In the Virginia game, Maryland attempted 27 shots in the fourth quarter, scored just once and lost by a goal. Against Navy the next week, the Terps outshot the Middies 59-38, took 17 of 21 faceoffs and 82 of 123 ground balls, and again lost by one. "Our stick work was atrocious. We looked like a bunch of high school kids," says Beardmore. But he decided to stay with the lineup he had tried against Navy, which included moving Tuck permanently to attack where he would not have to run as much. The Terps finally looked impressive the following week against the Severna Park club. Then with a 74-goal barrage, Maryland bombarded four consecutive opponents—Army, Hopkins, Hofstra and Washington and Lee—to reach the tournament finals.
The Hopkins game closed out the regular season amid reports that Maryland needed a victory to be selected for the NCAA championships. Hopkins was undefeated and ranked No. 1 at the time, but the Terps exploded to an 11-1 first-quarter lead on their way to a 19-11 win. Against Hofstra in the initial round of the NCAAs, they set a tournament record by taking 80 shots in another 19-11 win. Three days later they toyed with Washington and Lee, an upset winner over Hopkins in the opening round, before winning 15-5. "Because of our injuries and inexperience the coach had tried to change us to a more controlled, slowdown style," said Midfielder Doug Radebaugh, one of Maryland's three captains, as he tried to explain the Terps' early-season sluggishness. "Now we've returned to the old run and gun."
With his team back to a more comfortable style of play, Beardmore's problem in the week before the finals was making sure the Terps did not become too relaxed. Last year Maryland, a favorite to beat Hopkins in the tournament finale, was upset 17-12. Beardmore blames himself for taking the Blue Jays too lightly and allowing his team to become overconfident. He worked hard this time to avoid a repeat performance. In 1974 he gave his players two days off the week before the finals and let their conditioning taper off. This season there was only one free day, and Beardmore ran the Terps more than he had in any of the previous six weeks. He even held a workout the morning of the championship game. "The only people who could be overconfident were the ones who weren't here last year," said Midfielder Frank Urso, a two-time All-America who led the team in scoring this year.
The Terps looked hungry in the early going last week, making their first two goals 11 seconds apart and building a 3-0 lead. Then Navy hit four in a row and took the lead. The two teams exchanged goals before Maryland, sparked by two Urso goals within 12 seconds, poured in five straight to move ahead 9-5.
For the last 4:16 of the first half, the entire third quarter and the first 5:30 of the fourth period, the teams traded goals with Navy repeatedly cutting the Terps' lead to three, then falling back by four again. The Midshipmen could only blame themselves for not getting closer. There is no statistic for turnovers in lacrosse, but the Middies had more than their share. Twice Navy high-point man Jeff Long broke in all alone on Maryland Goalie Gary Niels, a converted midfielder, and failed to score. The first time Long tried to get too close to the goal before shooting, giving Maryland Defenseman Mark Bethmann enough time to make a desperate dash from the side and disrupt the shot. On his second breakaway, Long did get too close. He also faked once too often and Niels was able to come out on him and snuff the shot.
Then with the score 13-10, the Middies let a Maryland defenseman score. Mike Farrell, perhaps the best defender in lacrosse this year, scooped up a loose ball and charged into Navy territory as the Middies hastily retreated. "My man kept backing up and finally he gave me a 12-yard shot, so I figured what the heck," said Farrell. His high hard liner whistled over Mueller's shoulder.
With the score 15-11 Maryland finally broke the seesaw pattern. A good stop by Niels, who finished with 17 saves, started a quick play that resulted in a goal by Tuck. A moment later a Middie bounce shot from the side caromed past Niels only to be saved by Farrell, who had been hovering at the far edge of the crease. Maryland cleared the ball, Radebaugh made an unassisted score and the Terps had the six-goal margin that put the game out of reach.
Maryland's 20 goals broke a tournament record, as did its 54 goals for the three-game series. Urso, the hardest shot in college lacrosse, tied a championship game record by scoring five times. He has amassed 42 points in tournament competition in three years. At the end there was no disputing the Terp fans' cheer of "We're No. 1." Runner-up in the ACC, but national champions nonetheless. It was that kind of year.