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After 4 winless meetings, Maryland lacrosse’s offense finally flourished vs. Notre Dame

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The Terps snapped a four-game losing streak to the Fighting Irish on Saturday.

NCAA Lacrosse: Men's Championship Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Under Maryland men’s lacrosse head coach John Tillman, no program has stymied the Terps quite like Kevin Corrigan and Notre Dame. In his first seven seasons in College Park, Maryland lost four of five against the Fighting Irish, which included a four-game losing streak against them heading into Saturday’s top-10 matchup in College Park.

Notre Dame didn’t concede more than six goals in any of the previous four meetings, and last season, the Terps managed just four goals for the second consecutive time against the Fighting Irish. It was also a game in which Maryland allowed only five goals, only adding to the frustrating result.

“We looked back at last year and, candidly, that was a game that probably for a lot of the offensive guys, one that we probably were most disappointed with last year,” Tillman said.

It took just nine minutes on Saturday for the No. 2 Terps to match that four-goal total against No. 8 Notre Dame. After sophomore attacker Jared Bernhardt scored on an extra man opportunity to start the game, senior midfielder Adam DiMillo collected a rebound and slotted it past goalkeeper Matt Schmidt to put the Terps up 2-0 less than three minutes in.

Maryland eventually won 12-10, but the victory never seemed in too much jeopardy, playing with a three-goal lead for the majority. The Terps never trailed, and have still played from behind for just 3:13 of 240 possible minutes this season. The game’s tone felt completely different than the typical defensive battle that has become commonplace between Maryland and Notre Dame. By halftime, the Terps already had eight goals.

“I think we understood the animal that we were facing,” said DiMillo, who finished with two goals. “Watching film, we saw how they got after it.”

While six different Terps found the back of the net, it was senior midfielder Connor Kelly’s seven-assist game that stood out in the win. He added three goals to give himself 10 points, becoming just the fourth Terrapin to record double-digit points in a single game and the first player to do so in nearly 40 years.

Already established as an elite goal-scorer, Kelly is now showing he can be just as successful as a facilitator. His seven assists Saturday, which included several incredible finds across the face of the defense, gives him 16 already this season through five games. He only had 11 last year in 19 contests.

“I’m trying to find whatever I can do to better this offense,” Kelly said. “Me and [Tim Rotanz] have to facilitate as well as communicate what we’re doing on the offensive end.”

Conveniently, or perhaps all part of Tillman’s plan, the Terps had nine days to prepare for Saturday’s game, the most rest they’ll have before a matchup for the remainder of the season. Two early-season midweek games allowed Maryland to take last weekend off before the Fighting Irish came to College Park.

The way the schedule panned out gave ample time for Tillman and his coaching staff to not only dissect Notre Dame’s first two games, but also to recognize any subtle changes the Fighting Irish might have made from last season that could’ve helped the Terps win.

“My feeling is you learn game to game but you also learn year to year,” Tillman said. “We certainly will change a little bit, but you still have your core culture, your DNA, things that you do. Philosophically, [Notre Dame’s] parts may change and they certainly have great parts this year, but what they do doesn’t really change a ton.”

Freshman faceoff specialist Justin Shockey played the majority of faceoffs for the second straight game, winning 15-of-22 while picking up 11 ground balls against preseason All-ACC selection John Travisano. Bernhardt, like Kelly, also recorded another hat trick, while redshirt freshman Logan Wisnauskas scored two goals coming off a five-goal outing against then-ranked No. 17 Penn.

“It [was] just a good team effort, but when you have a guy like Connor and other people have to think and look at him … it opens up things for other guys,” Tillman said. “And I think our guys have a good sense of their role and playing to their roles.”