PHILADELPHIA — When Maryland men’s lacrosse faced Virginia in March, the Cavaliers blazed to an early lead and never looked back. They held an advantage over the final 49 minutes and 41 seconds.

Saturday’s rematch in the Final Four was entirely different — the Terps were the ones who cruised following an early spurt.

Seven-seed Maryland gained its first advantage at the 4:18 mark of the first quarter. It led six-seed Virginia the rest of the way, dominating the Cavaliers in the NCAA tournament semifinals at Lincoln Financial Field, 12-6.

The Terps’ win clinched their third title game appearance in the last four seasons. They’ll face one-seeded Notre Dame on Monday, who defeated five-seeded Denver, 13-6, on Saturday.

“[Assistant coach Jesse Bernhardt’s] defensive gameplan I thought was great,” coach John Tillman said. “These guys executed it extremely well.”

[Maryland men’s lacrosse advances to Final Four with 14-11 comeback win over Duke]

Maryland’s early defensive physicality gave the Virginia offense fits. The unit forced difficult looks — just two of the Cavaliers’ first eight shots were on goal — and a thunderous hit from Colin Burlace on Noah Chizmar near the cage midway through the frame caused the Terps’ first defensive turnover of the contest.

A strong defensive stand directly led to Maryland’s second goal of the day.

USILA Outstanding Player of the Year Ajax Zappitello pushed the ball on a clear, feeding a trailing AJ Larkin. Larkin, seconds before taking a blow, dished to Daniel Kelly near the cage. Kelly then wiggled his stick and fired a shot into the net for a 2-1 lead just over 10 minutes in.

Kelly struck again on a bouncing look past Virginia goalkeeper Kyle Morris less than a minute later.

Morris made his first career start at the cage in favor of Matthew Nunes. Nunes started every game for the Cavaliers entering Saturday, but was pulled after just six minutes in Virginia’s quarterfinal victory over Johns Hopkins.

Nunes entered the game for Morris after the third quarter, the Cavaliers trailing 11-4. Nunes struggled with a 31 percent save rate.

Luke Wierman, who won each of the game’s first five faceoffs, capitalized himself on the last of the bunch. The second team All-American scooped up the ground ball, sprinted toward the cage and fired a rocket past Morris to extend Maryland’s lead to 4-1.

“Capitalizing on those opportunities … gives confidence to the whole team,” Wierman said. “I think we just stuck to the gameplan that we were working on all week.”

The goals from Kelly and Wierman came within a two-minute span late in the first quarter. They gave the Terps a comfortable three-goal lead after 15 minutes. USILA Outstanding Attackman Connor Shellenberger scored in the game’s first minute, but Virginia never led again after that point. Zappitello limited Shellenberger to the one goal.

“We have the utmost confidence in him to win his matchup and do his job, which allows us to do our own thing,” Burlace said.

After Virginia struck first in the second period, Maryland responded with goals from Maltz and Kelly, the latter claiming a hat trick. It was Kelly’s second three-goal performance since entering the starting lineup in early April.

[Maryland men’s lacrosse hopes extra rest will pay dividends in postseason play]

Burlace added a pole goal late in the second quarter to extend the Terps’ lead to 7-3 at halftime.

The Terps’ offense started the third quarter blazing. Goals from Jack Koras and Eric Spanos within the first minute grew the advantage to six. Spanos added another score late in the period.

Spanos spent the majority of Saturday’s win working behind the cage, a continuation from the change Tillman made prior to the Terps’ first NCAA tournament game against Princeton. All of Spanos’ pre-tournament starts came at midfield.

The move has resulted in three of Maryland’s best offensive showings of the season during the team’s deep tournament run.

Maryland’s feisty defense held steady throughout the duration of the contest. Only 15 of Virginia’s 39 shots were on goal, while it suffered 15 turnovers. Division I goal leader Payton Cormier scored just one goal on five shots, ultimately resulting in a miserable offensive performance from the Cavaliers.

Maryland’s win advanced it to the national championship for the first time since 2022, when it defeated Cornell for its fourth national title in program history. The Terps will need to top Notre Dame on Monday for a fifth, a rematch from their 14-9 loss in February.

“They’re so good everywhere,” Tillman said. “We’re going to have to put a lot of time in over the next two days to try and get ready.”