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NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament 2017: How Maryland dominated Albany after a close 1st matchup

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The difference six weeks made was night and day.

Photo by Mitchell Leff of Getty Images/ illustration by Alex Littlehales

When Maryland men’s lacrosse and Albany met on April 12, the Terps’ one-goal victory went down to the final seconds. When the Terps and Great Danes met again in Sunday’s NCAA quarterfinals, it looked like a completely different set of teams.

In its most clinical performance of the season, top-seeded Maryland thrashed No. 8 Albany 18-9 to move on to the program’s fourth straight Final Four. The Terps are familiar with the Great Danes’ high-octane style of play having already played them, but nobody anticipated it’d lead to such a dominant performance.

“We’ve played Albany once before and know how good they are,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said. “Watching that first half last week, we knew what their potential was.”

Last week, Albany jumped to a 14-3 halftime lead over defending national champion North Carolina. This time, it was the Terps who delivered the early onslaught, and they’ll be competing for a spot in the national championship game because of it.

“We were missing something today, but a lot of that had to do with Maryland,” Albany head coach Scott Marr said.

The Terps essentially took on the same team just six weeks later, but turned a nail-biter into a blowout with their energy and intensity from the beginning. Maryland jumped to a quick start, and Albany didn’t have a response.

“They had two swings where it went from 2-2, to 6-2 in a hurry. That was tough to overcome,” Marr said.

Senior Matt Rambo, who finished with eight points and is now tied at the top of the school’s all-time goals list, set a precedent in the opening minute. He scored three of Maryland’s first five goals, all of them the product of his hard-nosed individual effort.

That aggression trickled down into the wing play, and Maryland got back to playing in transition and in the open field. Of the 18 goals scored, eight came within a minute of regaining possession off a turnover, clear or a faceoff.

Jon Garino Jr. was Maryland’s savior at the faceoff.

The senior took on the best young faceoff specialist in the country in TD Ierlan, and Garino came out on top.

“Knowing how good TD [Ierlan] is, to be able to be close to 50 percent was something we wanted to be able to do,” Tillman said. “And obviously, it worked out that way.”

Austin Henningsen started the game 0-for-5 at the X, but Garino came in and changed the whole dynamic of the possession game.

“When you’re trying to come back and create a run and you don’t win face-offs, that’s hard to do,” Marr said.

Garino finished 12-for-14 against Ierlan, who boasts the second-highest faceoff percentage in the country with a .708 clip.

“[Jon] is a completely different face-off guy, and he’s a little bit unorthodox,” Ierlan said. “He presents a style that I am not used to going up against.”

Actual rest turned out to be useful.

The last time the two played, it was a rescheduled midweek game that came two days after Maryland beat then-No. 1 Penn State. Even on a short week, the Terps traveled up to Albany and edged out a win in front of the Great Danes’ rocking home crowd. With a full week to practice, they were at full strength and made the most of it.

“It allowed us to get more in depth with our game plan,” defender Tim Muller said. “Last time having a two-day turnaround doesn’t really allow you to put some things in.”

Speaking of turnarounds, the Terps will have a quick one if they beat Denver to play the winner of Ohio State or Towson in the national title game. Even so, Rambo and this team will be ready to play.

“It’s a new season now. It’s playoffs. It’s one and done and I think everyone’s excited,” Rambo said. “We [seniors] don’t want this to be our last game; we want to spend as much time as possible with this team together.”

Tillman and the Terps got the better of Marr and his squad, but as a former assistant coach at Maryland from 1995-2000, he’s putting his support behind the team that knocked him out.

“Hats off to Maryland, they really played great,” he said. “As a former coach at Maryland, I am certainly rooting for them the rest of the way. Hopefully they get it done.”