In the battle between the unstoppable force that is Albany lacrosse's offense and the immovable object that is Maryland lacrosse's defense, Kyle Bernlohr and the Terps came out on top Wednesday night in College Park.
Albany's high-octane offense came into College Park averaging nearly 14 goals a game, good for seventh-best in the country. Maryland's defense, led by Bernlohr, the 2015 National Goalkeeper of the Year, came into the game allowing a paltry eight goals per game. That mark stands as the 12th-best in the country.
The old adage "the best defense is a good offense" held true for the Terps as they won the game's first six faceoffs and jumped out to a 4-2 lead. After Albany's Drake Bennett scored with 54 seconds left in the first quarter to make it a 3-2 game, Bryan Cole answered for Maryland with just seven seconds left in the quarter to push the lead back to two. Maryland extended its lead in the second quarter, taking a 7-3 edge into the break.
Albany would not go quietly. The Great Danes put together a 3-0 run in the last 4:30 of the third quarter to trim the deficit to one. The run was punctuated by Sean Eccles' man-up goal with 50 seconds left to play in the quarter. Maryland answered with a pair of goals at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Connor Kelly scored for the Terps just 52 seconds into the quarter, and Colin Heacock made the most of a man-up opportunity after Albany's AJ Kluck was called for a slash. Heacock took a feed from Matt Rambo and fired a laser past Albany's Blaze Riorden with 11:01 left to play to give Maryland a 9-6 lead. Rambo's second goal of the game with 5:21 left to play gave the Terps a four goal lead that would prove to be enough to hold off the Great Danes.
The Terrapins did a lot of things well against Albany. It started in the faceoff circle. Austin Henningsen was lights out. The precocious freshman won 16 of 20 faceoffs. For those of you that, like me, are not mathematically inclined, that's a staggering 80 percent. "Austin Henningsen was great tonight," said Maryland head coach John Tillman after the game.
We have seen two very different sides of Maryland's offense this season. On one side, a few players dominate the goal scoring. On the other side, everyone seems to get in on the action. Two players scored seven of Maryland's 12 goals in a win against Drexel, and the Terps had 12 different players score in their 17-5 rout of Princeton. Maryland went back to the balanced approach against Albany.
Rambo, Heacock, Cole and Tim Rotanz had two goals apiece while Kelly and Dylan Maltz each chipped in with a goal. "Guys really shared the ball," Tillman said. Six different goal scorers; that's the kind of healthy offensive balance that will help this team succeed and make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Cole thinks that this team can continue to put these kinds of offensive performances together. "We went out there trying to set the pace and play hard...We've got a lot of guys that can threaten a defense."
The Terrapin defense certainly came to play as well. Bernlohr had six saves in the second half to help Maryland hold onto its slim lead. Tillman gave a lot of credit to his defense. "Having Matt Dunn back was enormous for us...We played our system. We needed everybody on the same page. It took us three days or so to get there."
The Terps secured their first win over a ranked team this season by taking away Albany's strength. Tillman made a joke about threatening the guys with practice at 6:00 a.m. the next morning if they had lost. Whatever the strategy was, this team played hard for 60 minutes, withstood Albany's run in the third quarter and got a much-deserved win against an explosive Albany squad. North Carolina comes to College Park in 10 days, and Cole said that the Terps will use that time to rest, recover and improve. He did acknowledge that after some close losses to some of the nation's top teams, it felt good to get a win against a team like Albany.
"This is definitely something we can build off of."