No. 4 Maryland men’s lacrosse came into Saturday’s game against Albany as heavy favorites, but the Great Danes were not going away easily.
The Terps led by just two with under five minutes remaining in the third quarter. The game was for the taking. Not wanting to risk its third loss of the season, Maryland rode its hot hands.
Junior attackman Daniel Kelly missed a designed pick play, but freshman attackman Braden Erksa was in perfect position to corral the rebound and flick it in.
Then, senior midfielder Kyle Long found sophomore midfielder Jack Koras who was wide open two feet away from the cage. Koras snuck the ball past junior goalie Jack VanValkenburgh as he hit the turf, giving Maryland a four-goal lead.
The Terps scoring explosion was not done yet, as senior attackman Daniel Maltz capped off the third quarter with his fourth goal of the day.
Now holding a 12-7 lead, Maryland cruised through the final 15 minutes of action on its way to a 16-9 win on Saturday.
“It’s never easy to go on the road and get a win, but never easy here,” head coach John Tillman said. “Every time we’ve come up here it’s been a battle.”
Senior Luke Wierman lost the opening faceoff for the second consecutive game, giving Albany the first possession.
The Great Danes missed their first two shots but recovered both rebounds to extend the possession. With the first-quarter clock nearing 13 minutes, senior attackman Jack Pucci roped around the net and fired a shot into the top right corner.
Now holding a 1-0 lead, junior Regan Endres won another faceoff to keep the ball in Albany’s attacking zone. Sophomore defenseman Colin Burlace took matters into his own hands, though, causing a turnover and giving Maryland its first possession.
The Terps’ offense did not take advantage of the turnover, but made up for it minutes later. Sophomore attackman Zach Whittier received the ball as soon as he subbed onto the field and stampeded towards the net. Whittier gained the attention of two Albany defenders and quickly dumped the ball off to Maltz, who was wide open on the backside of the net.
Maltz tapped the ball in with ease and tied the game at one with 11:03 remaining in the first quarter.
The Great Danes immediately responded, however, scoring their second goal of the game just over a minute later. Graduate midfielder Declan Palandjian sprinted to the 20-yard line, shoved off junior defender Nick Reed and rifled the ball into the net.
Neither team scored over the next eight minutes as each goalie recorded a save.
Erksa ended the drought with under two minutes remaining in the first quarter, finishing off an assist from redshirt senior midfielder Jack Brennan.
Maltz scored another goal as the first quarter came to an end, giving Maryland a 3-2 lead heading into the second period.
Maryland was red hot to start the second quarter, scoring three unanswered goals in the first six minutes.
Albany freshman midfielder Alex Pfeiffer ended the Terps’ 5-0 scoring run with 7:49 remaining in the first half, launching the ball at the cage from 10 yards out. Senior Graydon Hogg scored his first goal of the game less than two minutes later, cutting Maryland’s lead to two.
Erksa and Hogg each scored before the intermission as Maryland held a 7-5 lead heading into halftime.
The first 10 minutes of the third quarter were fairly even, with each team scoring two goals, but as time unwinded, the Terps took over. Erksa, Koras and Maltz each tacked on a goal at the end of the third quarter, giving Maryland a five-goal lead heading into the fourth.
The Terps held on from there, improving their record to 4-2. Albany fell to 1-4.
Three things to know
1. The Terps had a balanced offensive attack. Maryland lacks a true alpha on the offensive end, but does have multiple weapons who are ready to contribute week in and week out. This week, it was three different Terps who carried the load. Maltz and Erksa both finished with a game-high four goals, while Koras contributed with three. If Maryland’s offense continues to run this smoothly, it may not need a 50-goal scorer.
2. Wierman did not have his best day. Wierman is one of the best faceoff specialists in the nation, but struggled against Endres and the Great Danes. The senior won just 13 of the 29 faceoffs, his first sub-50% game this season. The Terps were able to pull this one out despite his performance, but Wierman will have to be better next week against No. 1 Virginia.
“Luke had been, you know, doing so well in most games and we knew there would be a game where, you know, something would happen and we just couldn’t rely on, you know, Luke having statistically such a strong game and I felt like this was one of them,” Tillman said. “But the guys found a way to kind of deal with that.”
3. Maryland cleaned up the mistakes. The Terps have played very sloppy this season compared to their usual standards, but were sharp against Albany. Maryland finished the game with a .356 shooting percentage, 13 turnovers and .950 clear percentage, all of which were above its season averages. If the Terps continue to play this clean, they can beat anyone.
“I felt like we shot a little better today, which is encouraging for our group, but certainly something that we have to keep working on,” Tillman said.