Maryland men’s lacrosse hasn’t looked like itself for some time now.
Villanova, who came into last weekend’s contest with a 2-4 record, caught the Terps sleeping and delivered an early scoring barrage to hand the team its second straight loss. Maryland valiantly clawed back to force overtime, but the Wildcats had done too much damage in the first half.
“We should’ve been ready, we had a week of preparation,” senior defender Tim Muller said. “We were messing up on our fundamentals.”
Two in the loss column is certainly no reason to panic. After all, the last time the Terps hit a two-game losing streak, they won 16 straight en route to the program’s fourth title appearance in six years. Still, this is worrying for a team that many thought was poised to make a third consecutive run to the NCAA Championship game.
“Most people are sad,” senior middie Isaiah Davis-Allen said. “But it’s not a spot our team hasn’t been in before.”
Maryland was humbled by the Wildcats, but there’s a lot they can take from the game and improve on moving forward.
Faster starts on offense
The Terps nearly beat the Wildcats thanks to the sensational play of senior Matt Rambo in the fourth quarter, but the hole they dug themselves early on proved too steep to climb.
“We knew we would make a run,” Tillman said. “You never know if it’s gonna be enough, but I think everybody knew we would make a push. It was just a matter of, ‘Could we get enough done to get the ball and finish it off.’”
Tillman knows his offense can go on a run, but that doesn’t mean they should use that mentality as a safety net. Maryland had a slow start against Notre Dame as well, managing just two goals before halftime, but was unable to make a run to put them over the top.
Comebacks shouldn’t be a regular part of a game plan, and faster starts on offense could be the remedy.
More consistency at faceoff
Austin Henningsen had a rough start at the X against Villanova, starting the game 2-for-8 including a faceoff penalty.
Five of the Wildcats’ first six wins at faceoff eventually resulted in a goal, with two of them coming on the ensuing possession.
Senior Jon Garino relieved Henningsen and was near-perfect, finishing 15-for-18 while dealing most of his damage in the second half.
“Faceoffs are funny that way,” Tillman said. “Sometimes it’s just matchups.”
A rough start at the draw helped fuel Villanova’s early offensive onslaught, and in the end it ended up being the difference. With a trio of Henningsen, Garino and Will Bonaparte, Tillman can throw a lot of different looks at opposing faceoffs, which hopefully results in more game-long consistency.
Getting away from ‘pressing’
The Terps have been moving the ball, but it hasn’t been effective.
“There’s a big difference between moving the ball quickly, moving your feet quickly, moving and cycling the ball ... and pressing,” Tillman said. “That’s what we did at times with Notre Dame. We just kind of pressed instead of letting the ball do the work.”
Goals just aren’t coming as easy anymore. The Terps haven’t been scoring in transition, getting goals following a faceoff or utilizing the long-stick middies. The offense registered just two assists against ‘Nova, and that’s never a recipe for success.
There’s still plenty of time left in the season, and the Terps can get back on track with a win this weekend in a championship rematch against North Carolina.