Three takeaways from a defensive battle at No. 7 Notre Dame for No. 1 Maryland men’s lacrosse

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Three takeaways from a defensive battle at No. 7 Notre Dame for No. 1 Maryland men’s lacrosse

Maryland men’s lacrosse was tested again on the road. And, once again, it passed its test with flying colors. In a much more contested and back-and-forth affair, Maryland triumphed in the clutch, staving off a defensively stout Notre Dame to earn its fifth win of the season and remain undefeated. 

“I think [we] showed a lot of grit and heart and toughness,” head coach John Tillman said. “Things didn’t go as planned a lot and I give Notre Dame a lot of credit for that, but [we] just kept battling and sticking together.”

Here are some takeaways from the win

1. Maryland responded well to its first deficit 

In seconds, Maryland was thrusted into a position it hadn’t been too familiar with after four weeks of competitive lacrosse. Forty-five seconds for Notre Dame was enough to open up the scoring for the afternoon and thrust Maryland into a deficit — for the first time all season. 

Maryland seearched for a response and eventually got one with a Logan Wisnauskas goal, but the score was the only Terps’ point of the quarter. Notre Dame found the back of the net, once again, and exited the first frame with a, 2-1, lead. 

For Maryland’s standard of high scoring marks, the first quarter was less than ideal. 

In the opening frame, the Terps failed to win a single faceoff for 15 minutes of turnover laden lacrosse. The Fighting Irish defense made a solid effort to battle for each ground ball and stifle assignments with energy. Maryland forced turnovers, too, but Notre Dame dominated the first quarter shooting effort, 13-5. At one point, the Terps let up two possessions on back-to-back tries before allowing a man-up advantage for the Irish. And minutes later, Maryland was forced into a rare shot clock violation. 

Both defenses continued to push and pull for the three quarters that followed, but Maryland stepped up on the offensive end and claimed a lead that held for the rest of the contest with a 4-1 run in the second quarter. A more calculated offense contributed to the success, however, after an 0-4 start at the dot, an improved faceoff performance by Luke Wierman allowed the goal scoring to flow. 

“The faceoff — I thought the guys did a really good job,” Tillman said. “Not only Luke, but I thought the wing play was fairly good. They threw a couple different things at us.”

Wierman ended with a 75% win percentage despite the 0-4 start at the X. 

2. Both teams clashed for a defensive battle

Both teams brought their best defensive intensity. Notre Dame and Maryland, with similar makeups and defensive approaches clashed to manufacture one of the lowest scoring affairs between top ten teams. 

The Fighting Irish forced Maryland into its lowest scoring mark and groundball total of the season as well as the highest turnover total (18). 

Meanwhile, Maryland handed the Irish their first single-digit finish of the season and suffocated an athletic bunch of midfielders with its defensive midfield group. The starting group for Notre Dame combined for 11 shots, two goals and six turnovers. 

“I thought those [defensive midfielders] did a really good job,” Tillman said. 

“I think we had a good game plan,” defensive midfielder Roman Puglise said. “Obviously played them like five games ago going back to last year, so kind of familiar with some of them and they took it to us a little bit last year from the midfield so, you know, having that film to watch really helped us.”

When Notre Dame enjoyed its relatively comfortable start against Maryland, goaltender Logan McNaney protected the cage admirably with eight first half saves. And when the Irish sought to pepper the net in an effort to make it past regulation, the defense put together a stand to keep Notre Dame distanced. 

3. Maryland manufactured another team scoring effort

For the Terps, seven different players scored and four scored multiple times. This contest was the latest example of Maryland’s ability to get the ball in everyone’s cradle and the ball in the back of the net — regardless of who’s shooting it. Some goals were assisted, others were products of broken plays, like Wisnauskas’ first goal or Eric Malever’s second that came following a ground ball scuffle that quelled a late Notre Dame comeback effort. 

“I mean it’s awesome right?” midfielder Kyle Long said. “… being able to look at an offense and not know, you know, who to pull, what the matchups are.”

Maryland had to put defense and offense together to make the win possible, and it eventually found a way.