No. 1 Maryland men’s lacrosse heads to conference play battle-tested with a flawless record

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Following a 23-12 victory over the No. 2  team in the country, Maryland men’s lacrosse solidified its spot at the top of the mountain, at least for the time being.

Its next match appears to be a lighter challenge.

Becoming the top-ranked team in the country was not easy for the Terps. Five of the team’s first seven games came against ranked opponents — three of which were ranked in the top ten. The latest and final non-conference bout of the regular season was a National Championship rematch against No. 2 Virginia. As demonstrated by the final scoreline and the slew of highlight plays, Maryland exacted revenge on the defending champs with ease. 

“We always try to take it week by week, but there’s always a little extra juice when you play a team like Virginia,” midfielder Kyle Long said.

After seven games against a diverse set of opponents, Maryland still remains with an unblemished record. 

But if the record isn’t enough, the Terps are showing staunch improvement on both ends. Over their last two games, they outscored their opponents 47-18. Maryland’s 29-point differential is the team’s highest in a two-game split this season.

“There is no question who the number one team in the country is right now,” Virginia head coach Lars Tiffany said after Maryland’s resounding victory over the Cavaliers.

The Terps had conquered an old foe. But the story goes on, Big Ten play awaits.  

The next match will commence conference play against a 2-6 Penn State. The record, however, is a bit deceiving. Despite having the worst overall record in the Big Ten, all but one of the team’s losses have been decided by one goal. The team’s last four matchups include a victory over then-No. 5 Duke and one-goal losses to No. 6 Penn and No. 4 Cornell.

Additionally, by Sunday the Nittany Lions will have had close to two weeks to prepare.

“We know them well. They know us well,” Long said. ”You gotta be ready to play 60 minutes.”

Maryland head coach John Tillman gave a clear message to his players about not letting the celebration over the squads most recent win deter them from the greater picture.

“We have a mature group,” Tillman said. “But still, you know, 18-22 year olds. You need to constantly remind them [to] have the same preparation, that same focus. [We] gotta work our butts off to get ready for a team that’s gonna be ready.”

The dangers of being the top team in the country leaves open the opportunity for a trap game at any given moment.

“Nothing’s gonna be easy,” Tillman said. “You’re going to get everyone’s best shot.”

Maryland’s victory over Virginia proved to be a giant moral victory, but championships aren’t won in March.

“We can’t … let March 19th define our season,” Tillman said. “There’s a lot more we need to improve upon. If we’re not focused to try to get better, that game could really work against us.”