No. 4 Maryland men’s lacrosse led No. 9 Rutgers, 10-4, midway through the third quarter.
The Scarlet Knights thought they might have caught the break they needed to mount a comeback, though.
With 6:17 remaining in the quarter, junior midfielder Jack Aimone snaked through Maryland’s defense and scored his second goal of the day, and an unnecessary roughness call on Maryland freshman midfielder Eric Kolar gave the Scarlet Knights possession and a man-up opportunity.
Rutgers swung the ball around the attacking zone but found difficulty breaking through Maryland’s five defenders. Aimone, not wanting to waste the man-up opportunity, took a lackluster shot, which freshman goalie Brian Ruppel saved with ease.
This was one of the final meaningful opportunities the Scarlet Knights would have, as their three unanswered goals in the fourth quarter were not enough to overcome a six-goal deficit in an 11-8 loss to Maryland Sunday night.
“I liked our start, especially on the road...,”head coach John Tillman said. “Certainly got some things to clean up [with] how we finished.”
Neither team scored in the first six minutes, as they combined for four turnovers and one missed shot.
Maryland senior attackman Ryan Siracusa, who has played sparingly this season, broke the scoring drought at the 8:51 mark of the first quarter, whipping in his fourth goal of the season from nine yards out.
The first six minutes was filed with tremendous defense from both sides, but Siracusa’s goal opened the floodgates for Maryland’s offense.
Freshman attackman Braden Erksa took command of the offense in the first quarter, assisting on three of the Terps’ four goals. Siracusa was the recipient of the first, followed by Erksa finding a cutting attacker in back-to-back possessions for the next two.
Seniors Daniel Maltz and Jack Brennan connected for the final goal of the quarter, as Maltz flung in a low-angle shot.
Junior midfielder Jack Koras opened up the scoring in the second quarter, taking advantage of a miscommunication from the Rutgers defense for an easy goal.
Down 5-0, the Scarlet Knights needed a response.
Aimone and senior attackman Brain Cameron answered the call for the Scarlet Knights with back-to-back goals, cutting Maryland’s lead to three.
Maryland sophomore attackman Eric Sponse had a response, however, as he spun past senior defender Noah Daniels, reestablished his footing and then fired the ball into the cage.
Each team scored two goals over the next eight minutes, giving Maryland an 8-4 lead heading into halftime.
The Terps got scoring contributions from five different players in the first half, while a different player scored each of Rutgers’ four goals.
It seemed as though the Scarlet Knights were going to record the first goal of the third quarter with freshman goalie Brian Ruppel caught 40 yards away from the net, but Maryland’s empty-net defense caused a turnover and stormed back the other way.
Erksa received the ball on the offensive end and finished off the wild chain of events with an unassisted goal.
Junior attackman Daniel Kelly and Spanos each scored their second goals of the game in the third quarter and helped Maryland build a six-goal lead heading into the fourth.
Rutgers dominated the final period of play, scoring three unanswered goals, but it was not enough to upset Maryland.
Three things to know
1. Maryland’s underclassmen continue to impress. Erksa, Eric Spanos and Zach Whittier have been on fire recently. They scored five of Maryland’s 12 goals last week against Ohio State. The trio picked up right where they left off on Sunday night, combining for five goals and five assists. The freshmen are slowly taking over Maryland’s offense and provide athleticism to a rotation that needs it.
2. The Terps overcame a hostile environment. Heading into Sunday’s game, Rutgers held a 16-game home winning streak, the longest in Division I. However, this did not faze Maryland, which controlled the game from the get-go and limited the effect of the opposing crowd. The Terps now hold a 5-1 away record, and should be prepared to face any environment thrown at them in postseason play.
“That was the message; come out, play 60 minutes, start fast,” junior defender Ajax Zappitello said. “This is a tough place to play...we just needed to start really fast and finish even faster.”
3. Maryland can win the Big Ten regular-season title on Saturday. Maryland is one of three teams with a 3-1 Big Ten record, with the other two being Penn State and Johns Hopkins. The Terps defeated Penn State, 13-10, on March 25, and will take on Johns Hopkins for the first time this year on Saturday. If Maryland beats its rival, it wins the Big Ten regular-season title, but if the Terps lose, then the title can go to either of the two other teams.