By Thomas Pullano
The top seeded Maryland Men’s Lacrosse team opened up its NCAA tournament postseason with a 13-10 victory over the unseeded Bryant Bulldogs Sunday afternoon in College Park.
Behind five goals from junior midfielder Tim Rotanz and a career-high eight points from senior attacker and Tewaaraton finalist Matt Rambo, the Terps were able to escape Sunday after Bryant scored the final five goals to cut Maryland’s lead to just three with a little over two minutes remaining in the game.
With both teams sporting top-15 defenses in the country, scoring chances came at a premium in the first half. Rotanz, however, found a few holes in Bryant’s lockdown back line and had himself a hat trick before halftime.
A humble Rotanz after the game gave credit to his offensive teammates who he said “had a lot of the eyes on them today,” which created opportunities for him. “For me it was really just pretty easy stepping into 10, 12 yards, getting my hands free and shooting,” Rotanz said.
Following the halftime break, both offenses continued to struggle for the first portion of the third quarter. Finally, almost eight minutes into the period, Rambo ripped a shot past Bryant goalie James Werner to regain a three-goal lead for Maryland. Rambo’s rip seemed to spark the host team as the Terps would go on to score three more goals in the period and six of the next seven in the game.
During that run, Rambo scored or assisted on five of the six Maryland goals. A couple of weeks ago it was Johns Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala heaping praise on the senior. After the game Sunday, it was Bryant head coach Mike Pressler’s turn.
“He is such a handful. You know in the zone, man, I mean he is as dominant an attack man [in] our game today.” Pressler added, “I don’t care what you do or who plays him, he’s gonna get his, and number one’s probably the best offensive player in college lacrosse this year in my opinion, after seeing him live certainly.”
With just over eight minutes remaining in the contest and Maryland holding a 13-5 lead after an Adam DiMillo score, the game appeared all but over. However, Bryant was not ready to roll over just yet. With Maryland head coach John Tillman rotating in some second stringers while some of his normal defensive stalwarts—Tim Muller and Isaiah Davis-Allen—watched from the sideline, the Bulldogs took full advantage and clawed themselves back into the game. Attack men Tucker James and Cam Ziegler scored five goals in the next six minutes to put some pressure back onto the Terps’ side.
Then with just about a minute left on the clock, Bryant had a great chance to cut Maryland’s lead to just two. Junior midfielder Tom Kennedy got a step on his Maryland defender and fired a shot from a tough angle to the left of the crease. Maryland goalie Dan Morris got a piece of it, but the ball looked like it still had enough momentum to trickle past the goal line. Morris and defender Bryce Young both immediately jammed their sticks in front of the ball’s path and were able to cover it before it reached the line. Crisis averted. The Terps, while maybe a little tougher than expected, got the win and avoided the upset.
Although Tillman was pleased that he’ll get to have this group of guys playing for at least one more week, he recognized that the team’s sloppy performance in the final eight minutes Sunday was something needing major improvement if the Terps are to beat Albany next weekend.
“Gotta play 60 minutes at this time of year, or you run the risk of going home” said Tillman. “And certainly if we don’t play 60 good minutes next week, we will be going home.”
Senior Isaiah Davis-Allen echoed his coach’s sentiments about what he and his teammates will take away from this game.
“I don’t think for us we focus on the good too much. I think for us we know we want to focus on the bad,” Davis-Allen said. “I think for us we’re gonna focus on those last eight minutes, not the first 52 minutes.”
Despite the loss, Pressler lauded his players for their unwillingness to give up. “
If the game goes another five minutes, who knows, maybe it’s 13-13,” Pressler said. “And that’s who we are. We’re not pretty. You know we’re not uh, we’re not flashy. You know we’re nails tough. We absolutely battle you and fight you to the end, and that’s what you saw today from the team in black.”
Maryland’s quarterfinal matchup versus Albany will be next Saturday at 2:30p.m. in Delaware.