Maryland lacrosse is continuing to learn after its first loss of the season

By: Cody Wilcox

Notre Dame attackman Brian Willetts cradled the ball behind the net for a few seconds before cutting around the crease and dodging Maryland’s Thomas O’Connell and Danny Dolan to score the game winning goal in overtime, and give the Terps their first loss of the season.

Taking the over-600 mile journey home, Tillman’s team abided by his 24-hour rule— giving the team one day to react to a loss before turning the attention forward— as their five-game winning streak had come to an end in an abrupt manner.

But after facing their first taste of defeat for the 2018-2019 season, the Terps are changing their mentality and are using this loss as a learning experience for the remainder of the season.

“The big thing now is: Things didn’t go our way, how are we going to deal with this adversity?” head coach John Tillman said.  “I know what we’re going to do. [We’ve got to] pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, keep moving forward, be positive. Use this as motivation. We’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves.”

During Sunday’s matchup, the Irish went on two four-goal runs, including one after Maryland put up two consecutive goals to start the second half, that would usually allow a team to run away with the win in an average game. But Maryland’s hustle plays and comradery kept the Terps in the matchup that was anything but normal.

Plays such as attackman Logan Wisnauskas running nearly 20 yards and diving on the ground to save a rogue pass from Austin Henningsen that would have cost the Terps a crucial fourth quarter possession, and attackman Jared Bernhardt sprinting back on defense to give his team the opportunity to stop a transition from Notre Dame define the fight that is within the Terps.  

Most teams have their seasons take a turning point after a huge win against a talented opponent. However, for the Terps that moment could have came this past weekend in their loss to the Fighting Irish based on the way that the team responded to Notre Dame’s offensive runs.

“We pulled together. We were like, ‘Hey guys is everybody all right? You know we can still win this game,’” senior defenseman Curtis Corley said. “Then we came back out and responded the way we responded. I’m proud of our guys doing that because it’s tough when you get smacked coming out of the third quarter when we’ve just put up two and they put up four right after.”

As the Terps move forward, they will have the opportunity to show what they learned against Notre Dame and put it to good use against this weekend’s matchup in Albany, for the two have very similar offensive styles.

Despite Albany coming off of a 14-8 loss against UMass, Maryland will have to be sound in its substitutions and fundamental in its slides early during the Great Danes’ possessions. But Tillman says that the team’s defensive preparation against Notre Dame should transition to its game plan in Albany, New York.

“We spent more time defending early offense last week than any other aspect of the game,” Tillman said. “I haven’t seen anybody this year go from defense to offense as well as [Albany does.]

… If don’t do a good job there, it’s going to pose some serious challenges for us.”

Two years ago, Tillman’s Terps faced a similar situation. Maryland had begun 4-0 until it traveled to South Bend, Indiana, and lost 5-4 to Notre Dame, receiving their first loss of the season. The Terps only lost two more games the rest of the season before taking home the 2017 Lacrosse Championship in Boston.

With members still remaining from the 2017 on this year’s roster, Tillman will not let one loss define his team and is excited for what the future holds for the Terps.

“We’ve had a group that is very committed– the things that we ask them to do, they try to embrace,” Tillman said. “I’m excited about the growth we’ve made so far. And I’m really excited about where we can go.”