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No. 2 Maryland men’s lacrosse outlasts No. 9 Penn State, 13-10

Jack Koras led the Terps with a hat trick.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics
Twitter @TerpsMLax

No. 2 Maryland men’s lacrosse was leading No. 9 Penn State by three halfway through the fourth frame.

It needed to find a way to close out the match, and junior midfielder Jack Koras did just that, rifling home his third goal of the game and allowing the whole squad to exhale. It was his fifth hat trick of the season. The score demoralized the Nittany Lions, who were unable to climb back into the game. The Terps opened Big Ten play with an entertaining 13-10 victory.

“I think it starts with practice and the scout guys giving us a great look,” Koras said of his recent success. “We just translated it to game day and the ball happened to get in the back of the net.”

The Terps continue their homestand and will next face off against Michigan on April 1 at 1 p.m.

The game began with a faceoff win for Penn State. Heading into the matchup, one of Maryland’s great strengths was capitalizing on faceoffs.

Less than two minutes in, Penn State’s TJ Malone continued his torrid season. Leading Penn State in points, he scored the first goal of the game after working his way around from the back of the cage.

Maryland won the next faceoff and started to settle into its offense. The Terps worked the ball around patiently, but still fired away at Penn State’s goalkeeper Jack Fracyon. For a while, the Terps’ effort was to no avail, as their first nine shots either zipped wide of the net or were saved by Fracyon.

However, Maryland was relentless in its attack, causing a Nittany Lion turnover and then peppering the cage with more shots. Eventually, Braden Erksa found Zach Whittier from his position on the goal line extended. A beautiful pick set up a wide-open Whittier, who easily found the back of the net.

Following the tying score, Maryland went right back to work on offense and netted their second of the game just minutes later. Eric Kolar was the beneficiary, rocketing his second of the season past Fracyon.

The Terps were unable to build on the momentum right away, with the Nittany Lions scoring two straight. On the latter of the two, Penn State deployed a two-man game behind the cage, confusing Maryland’s defense.

Despite the surge from the Nittany Lions, Luke Wierman got Maryland back on track with a few successive faceoff wins that led to scores. He also became just the fifth Terp with 500 or more career faceoff wins.

After the first frame, the Terps led 5-3.

To begin the second quarter, the Terps resumed their scoring stretch at the end of the first, potting two within the first 45 seconds. Dante Trader Jr. and pure shooter Daniel Kelly added on to the surge.

Even Penn State’s timeout didn’t faze the Terps, as Kolar scored his second of the game when he sliced into the middle of the defense — all he had to do after receiving the pass was turn around and fire.

The next few minutes were filled with defense and tactical ball movement, although Maryland clearly had the time of possession advantage. It didn’t end up mattering, as Penn State quickly climbed right back into the game, suddenly winning a few consecutive draw controls and capitalizing.

Of Penn State’s four unanswered goals, the majority came off exposing the short-stick matchups from behind the cage.

“We either didn’t communicate well or were over-extending,” head coach John Tillman said. “You have three really good dodgers back there who are really dynamic and they gave us problems.”

Maryland concluded the second frame with a Koras score. Although ending on a high note, the momentum was clearly with the Nittany Lions heading into the half; the Terps led 10-8 after two quarters.

The third quarter began with a pair of goals, one from each program. The scoring then hit a hiatus, as both goalkeepers suddenly locked in and made some fantastic stops.

“I thought Brian (Ruppel) responded well, and that’s what you want to see from a young goalie,” Tillman said. “I thought he did a really nice job in the second half.”

About five minutes in, Maryland went man-up once more. For Penn State, the excess of fouls and self-inflicted wounds did not aid them in getting back in the game. They were still able to stymie the Terrapin attack, however, and waste away most of Maryland’s time on the advantage.

For both teams, defensive communication picked up, and the switches and picks were dealt with rather easily on both sides. Maryland even began doubling Penn State’s talented attackers, and All-American defender Brett Makar secured himself a few caused turnovers.

The quarter produced just two goals in total. Maryland led Penn State 11-9 heading into the fourth quarter.

The fourth stanza began with a pair of stops, one from each side. It was clear that the next score would be absolutely pivotal in determining the momentum of the game.

It ended up being the steady Kyle Long who broke the nearly 18-minute scoreless streak by both teams, extending Maryland’s lead to three.

After a few more minutes of scoreless activity, another trusted scorer, Koras, netted his third goal of the day. He gave the Terps a four goal cushion and ultimately took the life out of a Penn State squad that was desperately looking for a bounce-back win.

Three things to know

1. Shot differential. The shot differential between the two squads was absolutely outrageous. Maryland’s 51 shots easily trumped Penn State’s 32. However, the shots that Maryland did have weren’t all accurate or the best decision. Just 26 of the Terps’ total shots were on goal. Other than a few great picks leading to cuts, many of Maryland’s goals were hard-earned. Kolar, Trader and others had to make tough shots from 10 to 20 yards out from the cage, often at awkward angles.

2. Faceoffs. Heading into the game, is was an expectation that Maryland would win this battle. It proved true, as Penn State’s two young draw specialists had a tough time handling grizzled faceoff specialist Luke Wierman. The Terps were victorious in this area, winning 19 of 27 faceoffs. Furthermore, many of the draw controls that Maryland did win were timely. After Penn State went on its second-quarter run, Wierman took control of the circle. He won a number of faceoffs in a row and gave the Terps an opportunity to regain their position and not allow Penn State to steal all of the momentum.

3. Clutch defense. There were many aspects of the Terrapin defense that shined bright today. After letting in a few easy scores in the first half, freshman netminder Brian Ruppel shut down a number of late third- and early fourth-quarter scoring opportunities. He made nine total saves on the day. In addition, the defense settled in quite nicely overall, not allowing a Nittany Lion goal for over twenty minutes in the second half. They were much better at communicating switches on picks behind the net, and made sure that the short stick midfielders weren’t isolated anywhere around the cage.

“I thought (Penn State) did a good job on some of their picks,” Tillman said. “With some of our our young guys in there, sometimes it was maybe not communicating...our technique not being great. Luckily, we were able to catch our breath at halftime.”