For about 54 minutes Saturday afternoon, it looked like there was no doubt that Maryland was the top lacrosse team in the country.
The Terps led Albany nearly all afternoon. They had done what the Great Danes’ first four opponents hadn’t: make Connor Fields work for every point, take Tehoka Nanticoke out of the game, and limit Albany’s fast-paced offense by controlling faceoff man TD Ierlan.
But the team that came into this game No. 1 in the country woke up down the stretch to keep that title.
“I think in that fourth quarter our pace picked up,” Albany head coach Scott Marr said. “Maryland is a great team, but obviously they play a lot slower than we do. Sometimes you can get lulled into that, and I thought we got lulled into it a little. I thought in the fourth quarter we stepped up the pace and started attacking.”
While Albany’s run started when Dan Morris couldn’t completely stop a Connor Fields shot a minute into the fourth quarter, the Great Danes didn’t kick into high gear until more than seven minutes later. Ierlan was perfect from the X over the final 15 minutes, which gave Albany the possessions to make Maryland’s lead disappear quickly. Less than two minutes after Kyle McClancy scored to cut the Terps’ lead to 10-8 with 6:14 left, the game was tied with two goals from Jakob Patterson that came off two Ierlan faceoff wins.
“In the fourth we got on a roll,” Fields said. “TD went 6-6 in the fourth, and that made it make-it-take-it and helped us gain control.”
On the other sideline, Maryland could only watch as Albany went on a win-killing run. In the game’s last 6:14, the Terps only had possession twice and mustered one good shot on those possessions.
Maryland is usually patient on offense, and the tendency to pass up a perfectly good shot for a better one came back to bite them. On the Terps’ last real possession in the fourth quarter, with the shot clock on, Jared Bernhardt looked to drive to the goal like he’s done almost at will this year. But instead of turning the corner, he was cut off and pushed wide before firing a rushed shot on Albany goalie JD Colarusso, who made the save.
It exemplified the day on offense for Maryland head coach John Tillman, who thought his unit struggled despite four players scoring two goals.
“I just thought we weren’t in a great flow,” Tillman said. “I feel like we were playing too slow from the beginning. It just didn’t seem like we were in a great rhythm.”
Even on a day where both teams felt they could have executed better, the game still lived up to a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup. Unfortunately for Maryland, it came out on the wrong end.
“A one-goal game, this could go either way,” Tillman said. “It certainly makes it a lot harder knowing that we were up 8-3 and didn’t close out.”