Maryland men’s lacrosse edged No. 7 Ohio State, 10-9, to win the program’s second straight Big Ten Tournament title on Saturday night. The No. 1 Terps will enter the NCAA Tournament 11-3.
Junior midfielder Connor Kelly finished with five goals, reaching a hat trick by scoring the Terps first three goals of the game. Austin Henningsen finished 10-for-23 as the sole faceoff man, a solid outing considering the dominance of Ohio State’s Jake Withers.
Ohio State jumped to a quick 3-1 lead after Kelly’s game-opening goal, taking advantage of a number of hustle plays that allowed them to control possession in the first quarter.
Rolling off a switch, Matt Rambo found Kelly standing on the doorstep to put it in and pull Maryland back within one.
Goalie Dan Morris didn’t record a save in the first quarter, but honed in to make three in the second quarter. Kelly connected on a tough-angled howitzer to tie the game at three early in the quarter, and Tim Rotanz followed with an acrobatic high-to-low goal to put Maryland back on top. A three goal run by the Terps, Tre LeClaire muscled his way past Adam Dimillo to cap the Terps’ momentum.
With both teams deadlocked at four apiece going into halftime, head coach John Tillman told BTN, “I’d to see us settle down a little bit offensively. Play with a little more poise, move the ball a little bit and create off some motion.”
Jared Bernhardt took that sentiment to heart, scoring on the Terps’ first possession of the second half to make it 5-4, but Buckeyes’ senior attack Eric Fannell tip-toed the crease right in front of Morris and tied it back at 5-5.
Kelly and LeClaire traded goals to start the fourth, and LeClaire completed his hat trick moments later to give Ohio State a slim 7-6 lead.
Tillman switched things up, implementing two long poles in the wing spots of the faceoff unit. Bryce Young corralled the ground ball on the next faceoff, strode downfield and scored his first goal of the season to tie it at seven apiece.
Back and forth the offenses battled, going goal-for-goal with the game tied at 9-9 late in the fourth quarter.
Senior Colin Heacock, who’d been relatively quiet up to this point in the game, curled around the cage and found the back of the net to put Maryland up 10-9 with just over three minutes to play.
Ohio State would get a couple possessions to equalize it late, but Maryland’s defense proved too tough to tackle.
Three Things to Know
1. Maryland can win tough, defensive battles. The Buckeyes and Terps boast two of the more prolific offenses in the country, but combined for just 10 goals in the first three quarters. Maryland’s defense was outstanding against Penn State in the tournament semifinals as well, and finished the Big Ten Tournament with just 15 goals allowed. NCAA Tournament lacrosse is a completely different animal, and it’s good to see the Terps can win games in which they can rely on their defense.
2. Colin Heacock and Matt Rambo weren’t stars, but didn’t need to be. The 1-2 punch of Heacock and Rambo were largely quiet, but that was fine. Maryland’s offense has enough scorers to compensate when its two alpha scorers aren’t producing. Kelly and Tim Rotanz have been phenomenal down the last stretch of the season, and it’ll be exciting to watch them play in the NCAA Tournament.
3. Maryland will most likely be the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Broadcasters Joe Beninati and Marx Dixon even said it in the Big Ten Network broadcast: Whoever won this game would most likely be crowned the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Big Ten has become the premiere college lacrosse conference, so the league’s winner is arguably the best team in the country. For the second straight year, that honor belongs to the Terps.