By: Cody Wilcox
It wasn’t that long ago that the Maryland Terrapins found themselves in a similar situation.
Put together a streak of win against their opponents and remain undefeated at home until the No. 1 team comes to College Park and proves to the country why they are deserving of the top spot against the Terps.
With Maryland head coach John Tillman losing his second-career game against the No. 1 ranked team on Sunday against Penn State, the first coming in 2018 against Albany, the Terps will take what they learned from last year’s loss to the Great Danes as they try to rebound from their second loss of the season.
“There’s always lessons that you can take away from one season to another, or game to game,” Tillman said. “Playing against that caliber of teams — especially a team that was so experienced and so talented — we made some mistakes, so we look at those as ways to go, ‘All right, those are things that we need to correct, and if we don’t correct them it’s going to happen again.’”
In 2018’s matchup between Maryland and Albany, the Terps entered the fourth quarter with a 10-6 lead that would soon be expunged by a five-goal fourth quarter by the Great Danes. Maryland had led the entire game, until Albany’s Connor Fields goal at the 1:16 mark in the final quarter that handed the Terps their first loss of the season.
This past weekend, it was the first quarter offense from Penn State that haunted the Terps as they jumped out to an 8-1 lead at the end of the first quarter that was too much to overcome.
Maryland’s offense took about a half to wake up after scoring a season-low three first -half goals. The Terps came within one goal in the third, but three consecutive turnovers from the offense allowed the Nittany Lions to run away with their first-ever win against Maryland, according to Maryland athletics.
Welcoming teams like Penn State and Albany comes to no surprise to anybody within the program. So far this season the Terps have faced four ranked opponents as Tillman and staff make it a priority to schedule tough teams, even if it runs the risk of having a few digits in their loss column.
Facing multiple tough opponents over a series of weeks is something that Maryland lacrosse has adapted to, allowing the team to build on their success week to week or go back to the drawing board following a loss.
“[Penn State is] a team that you really want to beat, obviously in league play. And Albany last year, that’s a team we really wanted to beat,” fifth-year senior Nick Brozowski said. “But at the end of the day, as hard as that loss was — and there was a lot of things that we did really poorly — there’s a lot of things to build off of that game.”
And the Terps did exactly that after their loss to the Great Danes last year. Maryland won five straight games against ranked opponents, two of which were ranked within the top-10, and outscored their opponents 61-45.
Although the Albany loss came to Maryland earlier in the season, a young Terps team will have the opportunity to go on a similar run with four Big Ten games remaining in their regular season. Of those four teams, two are currently ranked within the top-20 of Inside Lacrosse’s media poll and one is receiving votes.
Last year, Maryland was very dependent on their upperclassmen like Connor Kelly, Bryce Young and Dan Morris to guide them in difficult times. However, it was the young guys like Justin Shockey, Logan Wisnauskas and Bubba Fairman that played crucial roles in keeping the Terps’ season on the rails after their loss to Albany.
The same may have to happen this year for the Terps as the team heads into conference play. Maryland’s second-leading scorer Wisnauskas didn’t have much of an impact against Penn State, tallying an uncharacteristic two points. As defenses start to key into him and Jared Bernhardt, Maryland’s primary offensive weapons, players such as Kyle Long, Anthony DeMaio and Fairman are going to be required to step up.
Maryland is at a crucial point in their season as they welcome the Michigan Wolverines this weekend. The team demonstrated a lot of fight in their comeback attempt against Penn State, wiping away an 8-1 deficit. But it is to be seen whether or not they extend that energy into the next few games as they did last year.
“I think a lot of teams would have folded after being down 8-1 in the first quarter,” Brozowski said. “But at the same time, for us to kind of show that grit and toughness to be able to come back, and make it a game — honestly — I think that shows a lot about our team and I think we can carry that forward.”