By Max Schaeffer
Late in the first overtime period, No. 20 Richmond had its chances to claim an upset victory over No. 6 Maryland men’s lacrosse.
But Maryland’s new No. 1, senior Ajax Zappitello, had other ideas. He forced two clutch turnovers in the period to extend the game, and the Terps took advantage.
Luke Wierman, who earlier in the game became Maryland’s all time leader in face-off wins, grabbed the most important draw of the game to give Maryland possession to begin the second overtime. It then took just over a minute for the ball to find the stick of senior attacker Owen Murphy, who stepped down and fired it into the bottom corner, giving the Terps a 12-11 season-opening victory.
It quickly became apparent that Saturday’s game would be more contested than previous Maryland season openers have been. Late in the first quarter, Richmond’s top offensive player, Dalton Young, caught the ball about five yards away from the Maryland crease and tucked it past Maryland goalie Logan McNaney, extending Richmond’s lead to 5-2.
“We kind of struggled to find any rhythm today,” head coach John Tillman said. “Felt like at times we were going too fast, other times we were going too slow. It’s trying to find that balance, that’s going to be a work in progress.”
McNaney, in his return to play after missing all of last season due to injury, made 13 saves on the afternoon.
Senior attacker Daniel Kelly gave the Terps some much-needed momentum late in the first, cutting the lead to 5-3.
The second quarter marked a vast improvement for the Terps, as they scored two quick goals to reclaim the lead. Sophomore attacker Braden Erksa buried his first goal of the season just 11 seconds into the period before Eric Spanos found the bottom corner on a man-advantage.
Maryland wouldn’t trail after the redshirt sophomore’s tally.
Then, one of the most exciting plays in lacrosse gave the Terps their first lead, a pole goal from Zappitello.
One more from Erksa and an answer from Richmond’s Luke Grayum sent Maryland into halftime with a 7-6 lead.
After a shaky start to the first half, the Terps seemed to find their footing in the second half, particularly on the defensive end.
As the game waned on, though, Richmond also made impressive adjustments defensively, shutting down two Maryland man-up scenarios, and the Spiders were able to pull within one headed into the final frame after a late goal by Young.
After a quiet opening three periods, Richmond sophomore attacker Aidan O’Neil came up with two big goals for the Spiders, the second of which tied the game at 11 with just over seven minutes to play.
The final minutes of regulation were thrilling, with both goalies showing out.
Richmond sophomore goalie Connor Knight made a huge save on a step down from senior Daniel Maltz, and McNaney answered with a nice save of his own. The Terps’ defense shut down Richmond’s final offensive opportunity, but Maltz’ last-gasp effort couldn’t find the back of the net.
Three Things to Know
1. Wierman cemented his place in history. With just over five minutes left in the third quarter, graduate midfielder Nick Alviti scooped up a ground ball off the wing, securing face-off win No. 649 in the career of Wierman, making him the program’s all-time leader in the stat. He finished the game with 17 face-off wins.
“I haven’t really reflected on it yet,” Wierman said of the record. “But, you know, it’s an honor to be mentioned with the guys on that list”
2. The Terps played clean. Richmond went the entire game without a man-up opportunity, while the Terps scored on two of their four opportunities. That advantage ended up a being a huge factor in Maryland’s victory.
3. Malever and McNaney looked good in their returns. McNnaney and redshirt junior attackman Eric Malever both made their returns Saturday from season-ending injuries last year. McNaney made 13 saves, stopping shots at a near-55% clip, while Malever tallied a goal and an assist.