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Kyle Bernlohr and the greatest save that won't matter

Kyle Bernlohr and the greatest save that won't matter

It was going to be Maryland lacrosse's defining image.

The one plastered on walls inside the soon-to-be-rennovated Cole Field House. 

It was set to become the greatest moment in Maryland Terrapins lacrosse history.

There was Senior goalie Kyle Bernlohr, lunging forward, contorting his body in the opposite direction, reaching out to deny North Carolina's Chris Cloutier the overtime game-winning goal. 

But it wasn't just any goal. It was the goal that would once again keep Maryland from claiming its first lacrosse national championship since 1975. The goal that would — for the fourth time in six years — stop the Terps short of the their national championship dream.

Bernlohr's rejection of the brief championship moment lacked basic goalie technique and execution, but made up for it with — well — everything else.

As Cloutier drove toward the crease, Bernlohr made one final lunge to match his stick with Cloutier's. 

That's when Cloutier dipped to the left, hoping to find one last sliver of goal space before fading to behind the goal.

Bernlohr, weight firmly planted on his front foot, was out of position and out of options. Cloutier faked high, and had the game-winner in his sights. Bernlohr was on uneven footing and without much hope.

Then, instead of shifting back toward the middle of the crease and finishing low and away, Cloutier kept the head of his stick up high, drifting away from the goal and away from a better scoring angle.

The better option for the Kitchner, Ontario native would have been to use the traditional Canadian 'box" technique for close-range shooting by bringing his stick back across his body without switching hands, resulting in an awkward yet effective shot that would have opened up more shooting space. 

But lacrosse is a game made up of thousands of breakneck, hectic moments. If you have to stop and think, you've already lost.

Bernlohr made one final — if not desperate — lunge across his body, jumping off his line to snatch the ball —and  impending defeat — from the Tar Heel attackman who would finish the game as the NCAA's all-time leader for goals in a single tournament.

In one graceful yet reckless moment, Bernlohr — a lefthanded goalie — jerked the stick across the front of his helmet while diving in the air, then readjusted to rob Cloutier and North Carolina of the title

It was a true championship moment, but also just that. 

A moment.

It was supposed to go down as the greatest save in NCAA Tournament history.

It was supposed to be the catalyst to Maryland breaking its streak of nine-straight championship game losses. 

Bernlohr's save was the pure embodiment of competitive spirit. It was a magical moment. One that defied proper fundamentals. It was the beautiful meeting point of reaction, instinct and sheer desperation.

But it was also a run-of-the-mill moment for a goalie. Not the save, that was phenomenal.

But the moment. That fleeting feeling of nothingness despite having just accomplished everything.

A goalie's greatest moment is never remembered.

You're more likely to be last seen digging a ball out of the back of the net than you are making the game-winning save. The next save is always the most important, which is why the great saves are hardly ever remembered.

Goals in lacrosse are scored at a premium, 27 on Memorial Day to be exact.

The goalie is the last line of defense but given arguably the most difficult task in sports: Stop a 90 MPH shot from ten feet away with minimal equipment standing in front of a net with four times as much surface area as the human body.

It's an unenviable task that features brilliant athletic accomplishments forgotten in a matter of moments.

Goalies get all the glory, but at a cost. It's there for a moment, and then it's gone, just a blip on the high-speed radar of "the fastest game played on two feet."

And so, just like the off-balanced, double-clutch 3-pointer hit by North Carolina's Marcus Paige in the waning seconds of the 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament Championship game against Villanova, and like Jay Beagle's Herculean, diving save in the Capitals' overtime playoff game against the Penguins, Bernlohr's save was on the cutting room floor within moments.

There was Cloutier, playing the role of Villanova's Kris Jenkins and Pittsburgh's Nick Bonino, blasting a shot low and away, completely out of reach of Bernlohr, into the back of the net, giving the Tar Heels a 14-13 championship victory. It was his 19th goal of the tournament, the most in NCAA Tournament history.

It was also the lasting image, the one nobody could have expected given what took place just moments prior even though it's all part of the vicious goalie cycle.

Maryland's championship nightmare did not vanquish, but the greatest save in tournament history did.

But that's the violent nature of sports, and the painful truth of being a goalie. One minute you're the hero and the next you're the goat.

It's absolutely heartbreaking.

But you can't predict sports. You can't script sports.

And yet, it's better that way, even if it ends with players like Bernlohr being reduced to a mere footnote. 

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Maryland lands former Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson


Maryland lands former Virginia Tech quarterback Josh Jackson

University of Maryland head football coach Mike Locksley is back at it again on the recruiting trail.

On Monday, former Virginia Tech starting quarterback Josh Jackson announced his decision to transfer to Maryland. Jackson is the second quarterback in the last three weeks to commit to Maryland, as Locksley landed four-star prospect Lance LeGendre over Florida State on National Signing Day earlier this month.

Jackson has two years remaining of eligibility, and will be able to play for the Terrapins immediately.

The former Hokie entered the 2018 season as the starting quarterback, but suffered a season-ending injury in September. In 2017, Jackson started all 13 games for Virginia Tech, throwing for 2,991 yards and 20 touchdowns, while adding another 324 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. The Hokies went 9-4.

It's been a very busy offseason for the Terrapins quarterback room. Kasim Hill, who started the first 10 games of Maryland's season a year ago, announced he was entering the NCAA's transfer portal on Feb. 8.

Hill is currently recovering from a left ACL tear, his second ACL tear in as many years. 

After adding Jackson, the transfer will most likely compete with senior Tyrrell Pigrome for the Terrapins starting quarterback position. Pigrome entered the 2017 season as the Terps starter, but tore his ACL in Maryland's Week 1 victory over Texas. Hill beat our Pigrome for the starting position in 2018, but Pigrome closed the season out as Maryland's starter after Hill got hurt.

It's very evident that one of Locksley's main priorities after being named head coach was upgrading the quarterback position. The Terrapins aerial attack struggled significantly in 2018. In his 10 starts, Hill failed to throw over 100 yards in six of them. That's not good.

While there is no guarantee that Maryland's quarterback play will improve in 2019, one thing is for sure: the quarterback room will look a lot different.


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Maryland-bound Mitchell twins lead Woodrow Wilson to DCIAA championship


Maryland-bound Mitchell twins lead Woodrow Wilson to DCIAA championship

For a third straight year, Woodrow Wilson High School took home the DCIAA title in boys basketball with its 92-48 thrashing of Roosevelt. 

Head coach Angelo Hernandez received double-digit scoring contributions from five players, including a team-high 17 from Darren Buchanan. 

The Maryland-bound Mitchell twins -- Makhi and Mahkel -- continued their efficient return to D.C. hoops with 13 points each. Makhi finished with a stat line of 13 points, 15 rebounds, and five assists. 

They're set to join Mark Turgeon's 2019 roster after a high school journey which started at Bishop McNamara (Forestville) and went on to the famed Montverde Academy (Florida) for a short stint with current Duke star RJ Barrett before returning to their D.C. roots for a final hoorah at Wilson. 

Up next for the Tigers? The state tournament.