No. 9 Maryland men’s lacrosse held a 12-9 advantage heading into the fourth quarter, but no lead was safe with the explosive nature of No. 18 Syracuse’s offense.
ACC Freshman of the Year front-runner Joey Spallina started the fourth quarter with a bang, scoring a no-look, behind-the-back goal that confused just about everybody watching the game.
With the Orange on a 3-0 run, the game was truly for the taking.
Senior midfielder Kyle Long did not let Syracuse’s momentum continue to build, scoring seconds after senior Luke Wierman won his 20th faceoff of the game. Long’s goal sparked the Terps’ third 3-0 run of the game, pushing their lead to five with 6:59 remaining.
Sophomore midfielder Dante Trader Jr. capped off the run with an unassisted goal. Trader Jr. slipped at the 50-yard line but got up and kept running, despite two Syracuse defenders draped all over him. The midfielder hit the brakes at the 25-yard line, let another defender blow right past him, and then bounced the ball right past Syracuse senior goalie Will Mark.
“Lacrosse is a game of runs and, you know, we just happened to have more runs than them today,” junior defenseman Ajax Zappitello said. “That’s a big credit to our offense. They changed a lot throughout the week and, you know, they were ready to go from the get-go today and it makes a big difference.”
The Orange were able to tack on two more goals before the final whistle, but it was too little, too late, as Maryland defeated Syracuse, 15-12, on Saturday in College Park.
“I felt like we came out with a lot of energy today after having maybe not our best week of practice the week before,” head coach John Tillman said. “I’m just proud of how our guys responded Monday through Friday.”
Wierman won the opening faceoff and the Terps instantly got to to work. After some clean ball movement, junior attackman Daniel Kelly received the ball at the 20-yard line and nailed his first shot of the game.
Then, junior midfielder Jack Koras gathered the ball off a save and instantly fired it back at net, making it two goals in two minutes for the Terps.
Maryland’s offensive barrage was not over yet, as senior attackman Daniel Maltz rifled in a wide-open shot.
With 12:04 remaining in the first quarter, the Terps had Syracuse against the ropes.
The Orange won their first faceoff of the game after Maryland’s third goal but turned the ball over less than two minutes later.
Both offenses were stagnant through the next seven minutes, but Syracuse stopped the drought with 4:30 remaining in the first quarter, scoring its first goal of the game and final of the quarter.
Graduate goalie Teddy Dolan opened up the second quarter with an impressive save, but the Orange quickly responded with their second goal of the game. Maryland’s once three-goal lead was completely erased with 11:41 remaining in the first half when freshman midfielder Luke Rhoa drilled a near 15-yarder.
Just when it seemed like Syracuse gained the momentum, the Terps caught fire, scoring four goals in three minutes.
Junior attackman Owen Murphy started the run with 7:47 remaining in the second half, taking full advantage of Maryland’s extra-man opportunity. Long and Koras scored the next two before Murphy capped off the run with a crafty goal.
The game continued to be defined by runs as Syracuse scored the next two, and Maryland scored the final two of the half.
Despite dropping multiple passes and committing seven turnovers, the Terps still managed to enter halftime with a 9-5 lead, outshooting Syracuse by 20.
Syracuse freshman midfielder Michael Leo kick-started the second half, scoring with an unassisted goal. Leo collected the ball at the 48-yard line and sprinted straight down to the 15-yard line, firing off a shot.
The Orange regained possession with 12:22 remaining after a Murphy turnover, leading to another Syracuse goal.
Yet again Maryland responded in bunches, rattling off three unanswered goals. Kelly scored two and Trader Jr. scored the other one, surging through the defense for his first career goal.
Syracuse redshirt sophomore midfielder Jackson Birtwistle scored each of the final two goals of the third quarter, cutting Maryland’s lead to three heading into the fourth.
Each team scored three goals in the fourth quarter, as Maryland handed Syracuse its first loss of the season.
Three things to know
1. The Terps sloppy play continued. Despite scoring 15 goals, Maryland’s offense was extremely inefficient on Saturday. The Terps dropped countless passes, turned the ball over 18 times and had a 30% shooting percentage. While Maryland still overcame Syracuse, these deficiencies need to be addressed.
“We’ve got, obviously, a lot of extra possessions, but we’ve got to do a better job at converting those into goals,” Tillman said. “You just got to keep working on shooting, you know. Guys, hopefully the more they play, the more comfortable they are.”
2. Teddy Dolan made his first start in goal. Senior goalie Logan McNaney walked around on crutches during pregame warmups, giving Dolan his first start as a Terp. The graduate did not have his best day in the cage, allowing 12 goals with a .429 save percentage. However, Syracuse does rank in the top-20 in goals per game (14.00), so it will be interesting to see if he gets another start next week against Princeton.
“I thought we put [Dolan] in a tough spot,” Tillman said. “So, I thought he did fine, you know, he saved the ones that we needed him to, I think he’d like to have a couple back. But at the end of the day, everybody just needed to find a way to get one more goal than them.”
Tillman has yet to designate McNaney with a specific injury, but said, “I don’t plan on seeing him anytime soon.”
3. Daniel Kelly is hot. After scoring just one goal in the season-opener against Richmond, Kelly has scored four goals in each of the last two games. Kelly has done so on a 21 shots, while dishing out two assists. The Terps needed a go-to guy with the departure of attackman Logan Wisnauskas, and Kelly just might be the answer.
“I think it comes down to hitting singles,” Kelly said. “I think that we won our matchups and we hit singles, and it’s a fun style of lacrosse when you do that.”