After a sluggish first quarter, No. 3-seed Maryland men’s lacrosse entered the second quarter against No. 2-seed Johns Hopkins with a two-goal deficit.
With a Big Ten tournament championship game appearance on the line, the Terps needed to wake up — and they did. They outscored the Blue Jays 13-6 in the final three quarters en route to a 14-9 victory.
“I told the guys when we got down 3-0, we just need to take a deep breath,” graduate defenseman Brett Makar said. “Like a boxing match or a UFC fight, you kind of got to feel out your opponent for those first few minutes.”
The Terps will take on No. 4-seed Michigan in the championship game on Saturday.
Maryland battled out of its first-quarter deficit and tied the game at four with three minutes remaining in the first half. The Terps could have become complacent and entered the second half with a fresh start, but they kept pushing.
Sophomore attackman Zach Whittier gobbled up a deflection off Johns Hopkins senior goalie Tim Marcille and fired it back at the net to give Maryland its first lead of the game with 2:21 remaining on the second-quarter clock. It would lead the rest of the way, making up for a slow start and keeping its dreams alive of a third straight Big Ten Tournament title.
“Certainly didn’t start great, but proud of the way our guys fought and battled,” head coach John Tillman said. “It certainly wasn’t a work of art or wasn’t necessarily clean, but I just thought we had great effort.”
For a moment, it looked like Johns Hopkins, which beat Maryland, 12-11, in the final game of the regular season, had the upper hand. It won the opening faceoff and controlled the first 10 minutes.
The Blue Jays worked the ball around the attacking zone before junior attackman Russell Melendez sprinted towards the cage, fought off contact from Maryland sophomore midfielder Dante Trader Jr. and scored the first goal of the day.
After missing its first shot of the game, Maryland received a delay of game penalty, giving the Blue Jays a man-up opportunity. Freshman goalie Brian Ruppel made his presence felt, though, recording his first save of the game.
However, the Blue Jays remained aggressive, scoring two more goals within 40 seconds.
The Terps faced a 3-0 deficit with nine minutes remaining the the first quarter, and desperately needed a response. It did not come immediately, but with 3:12 remaining on the first-quarter clock, Maryland broke through. Junior midfielder Jack Koras scored the Terps’ first goal of the game, catching a 20-yard dime from senior midfielder Kyle Long and punching it into the cage.
Maryland, now settled in, carried its momentum into the second quarter and looked like the two-time reigning Big Ten tournament champion it is.
Maryland and Johns Hopkins traded goals to begin the second quarter, but the final 10 minutes belonged to the Terps. Senior attackman Ryan Siracusa cut the Blue Jays’ lead to one and then freshman attackman Braden Erksa tied the game with 3:22 remaining in the first half.
After Whittier’s score put the Terps up 5-4, they stayed on the attack and continued to apply pressure in the final minutes of the half, simply out-hustling the Blue Jays. With time winding down, a rebound came to freshman attackman Braden Erksa, who jumped and fired the ball past Marcille to give Maryland a two-goal lead heading into halftime.
The teams exchanged three consecutive goals in the third quarter, but Maryland’s offense never slowed down. The Terps scored six goals in the third quarter and entered the fourth quarter with a four-goal lead, too much for Johns Hopkins to overcome.
Maryland drained the clock in the final period, and won to redeem its loss in “The Rivalry” two weeks prior.
Three things to know
1. Maryland cut back on the turnovers until the fourth quarter. Prior to Thursday’s game, the Terps had totaled 57 turnovers in their last three games. They cleaned up their act in the first three quarters of the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, though, recording just nine turnovers through the first three quarters. But the fourth quarter was a return to bad habits for Maryland, which gave the ball away seven times in the frame.
2. Owen Murphy made an impact. Murphy, who transferred from Johns Hopkins to Maryland prior to the 2022 season, received very little playing time against the Blue Jays in the regular-season matchup, as he was still nursing an ankle injury. But he was healthy enough on Thursday, and helped knock off his former team with three goals. The junior attackman will need to keep up his impressive play if Maryland wants to win its third consecutive Big Ten Tournament championship.
“It was really hard for him two weeks ago, you know, he didn’t play a lot,” Tillman said. “I’m happy for him because we need him. We need him to play like I know he can.”
3. Maryland got its revenge. After losing a shot at the Big Ten regular-season title in these teams’ first matchup, 12-11, the Terps got their revenge on Thursday. They fell into an early 3-0 deficit, but dominated the Blue Jays the rest of the game, outscoring them by eight over the final three quarters. Maryland will take on Michigan for the Big Ten Tournament title on Saturday.
“They probably did a few things the last time we played them that we did tonight,” Johns Hopkins head coach Peter Milliman said. “They were much more disciplined in their movement and their spacing on offense. They dodged with a purpose and didn’t take that first shot.”