Men’s Lacrosse dismantled by Penn State in Big Ten semifinal

Sitting as the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten semifinal round, the 8-4 (3-2 B1G) Maryland Terrapins traveled to Columbus, Ohio, for a Thursday night game against the No. 3 seed Penn State Nittany Lions (10-3, 3-2 B1G).

Coming off a 14-8 quarterfinal win against Rutgers, the Nittany Lions entered the game looking for revenge against Maryland which handed them a 13-11 loss in the regular season just four games prior. Maryland did not have a quarterfinal game, instead sitting through a bye week along with No. 1 Johns Hopkins.

Their revenge attempt was successful, with Maryland falling short 9-19.

“This team’s been tricky. They’re a great group of young men as I’ve said all year, but we’ve just been inconsistent,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said during his post-game presser. 

Penn State got an early jump on the Terps, stringing together three consecutive goals in the span of nine minutes thanks to the efforts of Matt Traynor, TJ Malone and Mac Costin. Attackman Daniel Maltz scored Maryland’s lone goal of the first quarter, but a behind-the-back shot followed from Kyle Lehman who sent Penn State into the next period with a 4-1 lead.

“First quarter having five turnovers, it just felt like we did not get off to a good start. We were kind of sloppy there which gave them possessions back and we just did not get into a good flow,” Tillman said.

And each earning their second goals of the night in the next quarter, Malone, Costin and Lehman contributed to Penn State’s 8-2 lead that birthed before there were less than 10 minutes till halftime. 

But a brief delay was forced at the eight-minute mark when Maryland goal-leader Braden Erksa took a hit and fell to the turf his helmet coming off in the impact. The injury prompted emergency medical staff to immediately rush the field.

Eventually having to be taken off on a stretcher, Erksa proved he was able to move his fingers just before he disappeared from view, giving a thumbs up in the direction of the crowd. He was released from the hospital and sent home with the team the next morning, per the team’s X account:

“They’re all best friends and they’re all really close,” Tillman said regarding his players. “I think after that [injury] some guys took an exception to what happened and then, sometimes your emotions take over, and I think we maybe tried a little too hard on some things and maybe our emotions got the best of us.”

With Maryland missing its offensive leader for most shots and most goals in the regular season, Penn State pulled ahead 11-3 at the half, with 29 total shots that overshadowed the Terps’ mere 16.

There was no greater sign of life from the Terps than in the third quarter, however, with four straight goals coming from Daniel Kelly, Maltz, faceoff specialist Luke Wierman and defenseman Ajax Zappitello. The effort would not be enough to come nearly close to the lead, with Penn State tacking on three more goals before time expired.

“We have a lot of confidence in [Wierman] and feel like he’s such a good weapon that we’re always looking for different ways to utilize him and put more pressure on the other team,” Tillman said. “In the last game, we were able to get some goals off the face off so we felt like we would explore that a little bit more. I thought he did a good job with it.”

Wierman won 19 of his 28 faceoffs against Penn State’s Colby Baldwin.

Despite Maryland having great success at the faceoff, Penn State doubled the Terps’ score heading into the final quarter at 15-7. Maryland only scored two goals thereafter another from Eric Spanos and one from Jack Brennan. But with the Nittany Lions scoring four more, a 19 point total marked the most goals ever scored by Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament.

Penn State advances to the final round against four-seed Michigan, who defeated Johns Hopkins 10-7 earlier on Thursday

Now with two consecutive losses, Maryland looks to the NCAA tournament which kicks off its opening round on May 8.

“You want to be a consistent team, and we just haven’t been. We have to figure out why we aren’t and see what we can learn and take away from this,” Tillman said.