Comeback falls short as Villanova stuns Maryland with OT victory

By Thomas Pullano

Playing in just its second game in two weeks, the No. 4 Maryland Men’s Lacrosse team fell to unranked Villanova 13-12 in overtime Saturday. The loss was the Terps’ second straight after they began the season with four straight wins.

Maryland, having scored only four goals in its last game versus Notre Dame, looked to reboot its offense Saturday against a Villanova squad that came to College Park allowing an average of more than 14 goals per game so far this season. However, the Terps struggled mightily to find any offensive success early as junior midfielder Connor Kelly was the only Maryland player to find the back of the net in the first quarter. After Kelly’s goal knotted the game up at one, the Wildcats would go on to score five straight, including two goals a piece from junior attack men Christian Cuccinello and Danny Seibel, to extend their lead to 6-1 just over three minutes into the second quarter.

Due to the postponement of the Albany game last Saturday, the Terps had not seen live game action in two weeks, and they looked rusty in that first quarter and early in the second. Senior defenseman Tim Muller maintained that the awkward lull in the schedule was no excuse for the flat start though.

“We should’ve been ready,” Muller said. “We got a week of preparation, so definitely shouldn’t have played a factor. I think we just came out slow. That’s just on us. That’s not on not playing for two weeks.

With normal starting faceoff specialist, Austin Henningsen, not faring particularly well at the X, Maryland head coach John Tillman inserted Jon Garino, Jr. to try to change things up a bit, and the senior delivered. He won all five of the remaining faceoffs in the second quarter as Maryland picked its game up a little bit on offense and scored three of the next four goals to cut Villanova’s lead to three at halftime.

Garino’s performance especially impressed Tillman.

“Facing off is very funny that way,” Tillman said. “Sometimes it’s just matchups, and today you know Jon just seemed to be the right matchup, and that really helped us out. So that’s another guy we can utilize.”

Despite Garino’s strong work at the X, the Terps’ momentum did not carry into the third quarter as Villanova built their lead back up to as large as five once again. And even after Maryland junior Tim Rotanz and senior Dylan Maltz scored goals 15 seconds apart near the end of the third quarter, the Terps still found themselves down 12-8 with just under eight minutes remaining in the game. That’s when their run began.

Finally starting to take advantage of Garino, Jr.’s dominance at the X, senior attack Matt Rambo scored three straight unassisted goals in the span of six minutes to bring the Terps within one of the Wildcats. Just 55 seconds after Rambo’s third goal of that span and his fourth of the day, Rotanz struck again. He had a step on his primary defender, found just enough space before the sliding defender arrived, fired and beat Villanova’s goalie Dan Willis to send the Maryland bench into a frenzy. The Terps had tied it, and they weren’t done just yet.

After Garino, Jr. won the ensuing faceoff, Tillman called timeout to set up a possible game-winning goal for his team with just over 20 seconds remaining. Highly touted freshman Jared Bernhardt took the ball after the timeout near the Maryland bench. After circling around the goal to the far side of the field, he spun back, dodged a couple of defenders and scooped the ball by Willis while taking a big hit with just seconds remaining for what appeared to be the game-winning goal. The referees, however, immediately waved it off, calling Bernhardt for a crease violation.

It was a very close play, but Tillman wasn’t upset with the officials after the game.

“We had a good crew there,” Tillman said. “If they said he was in the crease, I trust that he was in the crease. They certainly have a better angle than I do. So you know those guys have such a tough job, and it’s really hard. I’m certainly not going to second guess an official if they felt that he was in. I trust that he made the right call.”

Even though the Terps won the faceoff to begin the overtime period, a turnover gave the Wildcats possession. Villanova senior Jake Froccaro, who finished with three goals and two assists on the day, found his teammate Seibel in the middle of the box, and Seibel crushed Maryland’s comeback dreams with a shot past goalie Dan Morris that sent the entire Villanova bench onto the field in celebration.

While obviously not the result Tillman wanted, he still liked how his team battled throughout the entire game. “You know we had two opportunities with the lead or I mean the tie late, to try to get over the hump, and we just didn’t quite do that.”

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