May 23, 2015
Matt Rambo walked back up on to that special stage he once occupied when he romped up and down the local lacrosse fields when he starred at La Salle. It was a comfort zone, where he felt free to fire anytime he was near the net — and that frequently spelled trouble for any team that faced Rambo.
On Saturday, before 29,123 that filled Lincoln Financial Field, on national TV, “La Salle Matt,” the former Catholic League MVP reappeared.
Rambo had the best game of young collegiate career scoring a game-high four goals to lead the Terrapins to a 12-11 victory over Johns Hopkins in the NCAA men’s’ lacrosse semifinals, setting up a Memorial Day championship showdown with Denver on Monday at 1 p.m. at Lincoln Financial Field for the NCAA national championship, a championship Maryland hasn’t won since 1975.
Now thanks to Rambo, who lives in Abington, the Terps are in a position to snap a 40-year void. He played before about 40 of his family and friends on Saturday on the largest lacrosse stage there is. Adding to that incentive was the Johns Hopkins-Maryland rivalry. The convergence of events couldn’t have been any more perfect for Rambo, who leads the Terps with 38 goals in his sophomore year.
“I love being home, I grew up in Philadelphia, been in the stands numerous times for the Final Four, and I was once there watching this game,” Rambo said. “It is like a dream come true. I was just making plays off my teammates, and I was able to pop off and shoot the ball pretty well. There was some added motivation for this. The tournament is a new season for us, and for me. It’s how I look at it. Once you make it here, and I’m in the Final Four, this was a personal thing. I let the game come to me and it was working out. I would say it’s the best game of my career so far.”
Maryland, now 15-3, had been winning with defense this season. Rambo and the Terps’ offense had been struggling.
“Our defense has carried us all year,” Rambo said. “Our offense is just clicking right now. We’re moving the ball and working together. There wasn’t that much wrong with our offense. Our problem was we’re a new group, and it takes a while to click and come together.
"We’re clicking right now. In the beginning of the year, we weren’t shooting the best, but we weren’t exactly 100-percent together. Now, you can tell it’s the playoffs and it’s a different season. My confidence is there, but you can always work on that. I play with five other great guys who have helped me there.”
Two months ago, Rambo was a little hesitant. There was no doubt when he fired his shots Saturday. He connected on four of 10 shots, scoring the last two goals to win for Maryland.
The dominant Matt Rambo people were used to seeing in high school re-emerged.
“That’s because Matt is letting the game come to him,” Maryland coach John Tillman said. “Matt was comfortable today. I don’t know, maybe it is something about being back home in Philly with him, but he’s a special player and he showed why today.”
Maryland has a task ahead of it in Denver, which won in overtime against Notre Dame, 11-10, after blowing a four-goal, fourth-quarter lead. The Pioneers, 16-2, and the No. 4 seed, move the ball exceptionally well and are the opposite of Maryland, a team predicated on winning with offense.
“That’s going to be a challenge against Denver,” Rambo admitted. “They’re a great team. They’re a very good offensive team, but we’re coming together at the right time on offense.”