No. 1 Maryland men’s lacrosse wasted little time feeling its opponent out. Keegan Khan, especially.
Off the feed from FOGO Luke Wierman and off the subsequent bounce from his shot from the left wing, Khan opened up the scoring of the afternoon in less than 10 seconds of game time. It was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it play that encapsulated the first half and the lively state of the offense and all of its parts.
The Terps knew No. 2 Virginia well enough to bypass the often unavoidable slow start. The gut-wrenching loss Maryland suffered in the 2021 title match was less than a year ago. And plenty of the goal scorers and contributors of that game and the historic season that preceded it still don Maryland colors.
It was a familiarity, along with an energetic and calculated approach that helped the Terps slide past their top two foe. The Terps started strong and ended it with a similar intensity, downing Virginia at Audi Field, 23-12, in a game that was entirely in their control.
“Everyone was really engaged in the game,” attackman Anthony DeMaio said. “And it all starts with those guys on the sideline keeping us engaged the whole time, bringing an energy the whole time and that’s what makes games form like this.”
Wierman was one of many holdovers of the 2021 roster. He had already competed against opposing FOGO Petey LaSalla, who he dominated on Saturday for nearly every chance at the dot. Wierman, along with his wings, was the source of most of the offensive success that allowed a downpour of points in the first half.
Wierman finished winning 24 of his 36 draws at the dot.
He set up Khan for his game-opening score and helped maintain a possession stronghold for the Terps. And, eventually, one eight second score ballooned into a brief but demonstrative 5-2 lead before the quarter one break.
Four different scorers had already netted their own goals and each score was a product of a won one-on-one matchup or a strong display of ball movement.
“Our scout guys all week [were] pushing us as a unit,” Khan said. “And I feel like we were just very unselfish today moving the ball getting each other open and it worked out for us.”
After Khan scored his second goal of the afternoon tiptoeing along the crease, just eight seconds passed until Jonathan Donville netted his first of the day off of a curl play that got him wide open with little time for the Cavaliers defense to react.
Virginia scored goals intermittently, but not enough to keep up with the Terps’ offense. And Maryland defended well and never surrendered its multiple possession lead. The defense unsettled and scrambled Virginia so much, it even had chances to score goals of its own.
Outside of the trusted duo of Matt Moore and Connor Shellenberger — who combined for six goals — the Cavaliers offense struggled mightily, getting off 19 fewer shots than Maryland and turned the ball over four more times than the Terps.
Forcing turnovers and bad shots, the Terps defense got in transition often, and converted several shots at goal.
To improve the lead to 10-5, defenseman Brett Makar, a program mainstay and another member of the 2021 roster, dashed past the midfield line and fired a laser off an assist from Khan.
In response to a 4-0 Virginia run that put Maryland’s lead in jeopardy, two more familiar faces produced quick answers. Following a Roman Puglise transition score, fellow fifth year defender Matt Rahill scored a pole goal from Maryland territory to help put the Terps up 11-17 and the finishing touches on the win.
“When Brett [Makar] or Matt [Rahill], when all those guys score, it’s definitely a big bench lifter,” DeMaio said. “It gets everyone going and everyone definitely feels confident, everyone’s super excited for those guys when they get that done.”
Soon, Maryland found itself approaching 20 points averting a fate it suffered just months ago. From the game’s start, the Terps were in control, winning was well within their grasp. There were old pieces of last year’s loss responsible for the victory, but there was mainly a group of fiery athletes, who brought energy until the final horn to make the win possible.
“There is no question who the number one team in the country is right now,” Virginia head coach Lars Tiffany said.