With High Point down 2-1 early in the first quarter, freshman Mitchell Snyder was within striking distance to deliver an equalizing goal against Maryland men’s lacrosse. Instead, he was swarmed by an army of defenders. High Point junior Bryce Young would eventually turn the ball over.
Minutes later, junior Chris Young was orchestrating the Panthers’ offense and rolling to to the cage. He was similarly met by the wall that is Maryland’s defense, and defensive anchor Tim Muller would force another turnover via a devastating stick check.
Maryland’s defense has always been the elite of the elite, averaging less than eight goals allowed per contest over the last couple of years. In Saturday’s 19-5 throttling of High Point, Maryland’s defense was more than just stingy, it was downright mean.
Mean in a good, aggressive kind of way. The Terps didn’t just lock down the Panthers’ attack or play them close. It was a proactive style of play in which they imposed a physical dominance over the Panthers, resulting in 10 turnovers and 42 recovered ground balls.
“I thought we were terrific off the ground all day long, and I think the numbers reflect that,” head coach John Tillman told reporters after the Terps’ home-opening win. “Against a tough team like High Point, I think getting those extra possessions is critical.”
Those caused turnovers helped ignite a 19-goal outing, the highest goal production for the program since April 2, 2014 against Robert Morris. It’s no coincidence that an aggressive style of play led to an increase in the team’s offensive production.
“There are opportunities when the ball is loose to create some offense,” Tillman said.
The defense was constantly one step ahead of High Point’s attack, never letting them get into any sort of rhythm. When High Point’s Sean Harrison scored early in the fourth quarter, it capped a 17-minute scoring drought that included the entirety of the third quarter.
“When you play good defense, and you slide and recover, and when you can create some double teams ... that leads to a lot of loose balls, and then loose balls a lot of the time turn into transition opportunities,” Tillman said.
The aggressive play didn’t just come from the defense, as it came from practically everyone.
Senior attacker Colin Heacock got in on the action with two forced turnovers, while midfielders Nick Brozowski, Adam DiMillo and Tim Rotanz combined for four on the day.
Face-off man Austin Henningsen, who enjoyed a 13-for-17 performance at the X on Saturday, has rebounded from a lackluster opening weekend performance against Navy. He’s gone 31-for-41 over the last two games, and he credits that renewed aggression to the help of “The Hawg Pen.”
“They have t-shirts, they have their own Instagram account, they’re living large,” Tillman chuckled about after Saturday’s win.
It turns out Maryland’s face-off men are as tight-knit as they are clever with nicknames.
“It’s a good group of guys ... we just kind of collected each other, licked our wounds and got back to work,” Henningsen said.
The Terps’ all-around aggressive play led to one of their best offensive performances in years, and continuing it should lead to continued success.