Before Saturday’s game against Syracuse, head coach John Tillman stated that Maryland would play with an underdog mindset.
The Terps hadn’t lost a regular-season game in nearly three years, and Syracuse was coming off a disappointing season in 2022. What would have been a strange comment to make just a week ago is now a reality for a Terps team that has dealt with injury after injury.
While Maryland made its first misstep of their 2023 campaign last weekend against Loyola, Syracuse improved to 3-0 and moved up to No. 16 in the poll. The Terps got thinner in the backend, with preseason All-American goalie Logan McNaney out for the year with an ACL injury.
With lots of question marks coming in, Maryland made sure to move past a disappointing result last weekend, defeating Syracuse 15-12.
The Terps got off to a hot start, scoring three goals in the first three minutes, including the opener from Daniel Kelly only 40 seconds en route to a four goal, two assist day for the junior.
“I think it just falls back to hitting singles. Last week, we really didn’t do that,” said Kelly. “This week, I thought we hit singles, we moved the ball well. That’s a full credit to our scout team, they got us super prepared all week for a great team in Syracuse.”
Jack Koras and Daniel Maltz added a goal apiece in the following two minutes to set the tone for the Terps and get out to an early lead following a slow start last week vs. the Greyhounds.
The two combined for six points, including three goals from Koras, to cap off a stellar day for the Maryland offense.
Syracuse got the game back to even with 11 minutes to go in the half, but the Terps went on to score six goals in eight minutes behind 11 first half faceoff wins on 16 takes from Luke Weirman to cap off a strong half for Maryland.
At the break, the Terps led the Orange 32-12 in shots, and looked sharp on both sides of the ball, leading the Orange, 9-5.
Syracuse looked to bring some life back to their bench to start the half, and after yet another face-off loss to Weirman, the Orange forced Maryland into their first failed clear of the season.
In the same possession, Michael Leo brought the score back to within three for Syracuse, firing a shot past Binghamton transfer Teddy Dolan, who got his first start of the season following McNaney’s injury.
Dolan looked sharp in his debut for the Terps, making nine saves on 29 shots.
“He played against Team USA, he’s played against Duke, he’s played against Georgetown… I think the older guys feel very comfortable with Teddy,” said Tillman. “He’s actually started in the Carrier Dome against Syracuse before, so we felt like this would not be too big of a moment. That’s the beauty of having an older guy come in just in case something happened.”
Syracuse added another just minutes after Leo’s tally to get the score to 9-7, but the Terps didn’t sit back, going on a quick 3-0 run in just over a minute to gain some breathing room. The Orange didn’t show any quit though, earning two back to make it 12-9 to end the third quarter.
Weirman continued to show out, helping Maryland dominate time of possession in the fourth, including the opening faceoff of the quarter. Weirman finished 24/31 on the day, with 12 ground balls and one assist.
“The luxury of Luke right now is kind of showing itself,” said Tillman. “He’s been so important for us.”
Syracuse got a golden opportunity to get back in the game with 12 minutes left after a one minute unnecessary roughness penalty by Koras, but the Terps forced a turnover and let the man-up run out from Syracuse’s defensive end.
After killing off the penalty, the Orange regained possession and finally got Joey Spallina on the board to cut Maryland’s lead to two.
The No. 1 ranked player in the 2022 class has been good so far this season, but reigning Big Ten defensive player of the year, Brett Makar, kept Spallina quiet, holding him to just two points.
“Obviously, they’re a good attack line. They got some really great players,” said junior defenseman Ajax Zappitello. “Staying after practice, doing extra work, stuff like that just to get us prepared so that we can perform the way we did today.”
The Terps responded again, putting two man-up goals away, and adding another in transition from short-stick defensive midfielder Dante Trader, who finished with two goals on the day.
Jackson Birtwistle added one late for the Orange to cap off a three goal day, along with another from Alex Simmons, but it was too little, too late for Syracuse as Maryland handed them their first loss of the season, 15-12.
Maryland improved to 2-1 on the season, with a big matchup coming against Princeton next week.
“I’m just proud of how our guys responded Monday through Friday,” said Tillman. “I loved our effort, but certainly tons to clean up on and a lot of stuff that we can get better at. All these guys feel better about the way they left the field today.”