Before Saturday’s proceedings, No. 1 Maryland men’s lacrosse had gone 22 straight games without a regular season loss. And that streak was in jeopardy when No. 9 Ohio State held a four-goal lead in the second frame.
But the unanimous top-ranked team in the nation wouldn’t give up that easily. Maryland countered the rest of the way with a 16-5 run, en route to a, 19-12, victory.
“I thought this was good for us to kind of have to come from behind,” head coach John Tillman said. “I mean, it’s going to happen at some point.”
The win kept the streak alive and made Maryland Big Ten regular season champions for the second year in a row.
“I know how hard these guys have worked since August,” Tillman said. “So, to be able to accomplish one of our goals – certainly not the only one – but to be Big Ten champs means a lot.”
With how the Terps have managed historically against top ten opponents, there seemed to be no surprise when, after not even a minute into the game, Maryland was already up by two goals.
First, it was Eric Malever who fired an overhead shot, splitting a tight opening at the goalie’s right side to give Maryland the first goal of the game. Then, it was Roman Puglise who bounced the ball into the back of the net.
Not letting a speedy Maryland start deter them, the Buckeyes fired back. Five minutes in, the game was tied at two apiece.
The teams exchanged goals before Ohio State’s Jackson Reid got on the scoreboard. The Terps were in a spot they weren’t used to – they were trailing.
Another goal a minute later gave the Buckeyes a two-point lead to close out the first quarter.
Tillman took the blame for Maryland’s slow start.
“Shame on me,” Tillman said. “I don’t think I did a very good job getting these guys ready.”
It was, however, a sluggish start that came with plenty of promising chances. After the first quarter, the Terps put up three more shots on goal, but were unable to get many past Ohio State goalie Skylar Wahlund, who acted as a brick wall, saving five shots in the first quarter while Maryland couldn’t save any.
Three minutes into the second quarter, Ohio State led by three with a score from a Buckeye midfielder.
Then, Ohio State led by four two minutes later. Down, 7-3, the Terps were playing uncharacteristic lacrosse.
Tillman quickly called a time out to regroup his team. Despite being down, the coach never lost hope.
“I had a lot of confidence in these guys,” Tillman said. “I just know how hard they work.”
In the huddle, the teammates spoke up.
“I credit coach [Tillman]. I credit all the coaches,” midfielder Roman Puglise said. “They kind of step back at times and just let us take control because they have that belief in us and that trust in us, because we are such a close group and we’ve gone to battle together.”
By that point, Maryland had gone 15 minutes without a goal. Less than a minute after the timeout, Maryland scored.
Two goals from their leader, Logan Wisnauskas, snapped Maryland out of their funk. Jonathan Donville then bounced a shot through the goalie’s legs to put the game within one.
There was no question who had the momentum now. Ohio State’s lead was soon to be entirely erased after Jack Koras bounced in a shot to the right corner with two minutes to go in the half. Halfway through, the game was at a stalemate, 7-7.
The teams exchanged blows throughout the third quarter, but Maryland maintained a one-point lead at the end of it.
However, the tight battle did not continue to the end. It took longer than usual, but the Terps finally reached the recurring point in the game where they found ways to run circles around their opponent, at one point going on an 8-1 run. The outcome was no longer in doubt.
“I kind of find it exciting when we don’t play as great as we want and we’re still able to come out with the win,” defenseman Brett Makar said. “[It] just shows the fight and resiliency of this group.”
With the rain pouring down, the clock hit zero and the Terps hoisted the soaking Big Ten trophy.
Although their job isn’t finished, the Terps enjoyed the moment.
“That’s the beauty of the journey, how much we put into it,” Makar said. “And to have days like this, it really is special and something you have to soak up.”
Despite a strong performance from Wahland, notching 19 saves, the goalie could only do so much to stop the 38 shots on goal from Maryland, which was far greater than Ohio State’s 23.
Maryland will close out the regular season next Saturday at Johns Hopkins. The squad will hope to finish their second straight regular season undefeated.