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Maryland men’s lacrosse was doomed by its slow start and finish against Duke

The Terps played catch-up early, and didn’t have enough in the tank to come all the way back.

NCAA Lacrosse: Men's Lacrosse Championship Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Seconds after scoring his second goal of the game, Duke senior attackman Justin Guterding pointed to graduate student Peter Conley and banged his chest. That goal gave the Blue Devils a 12-7 lead and put the nail in the coffin in Maryland men’s lacrosse’s season, which ended Saturday with a 13-8 loss to Duke in the Final Four.

It was the last score in a four-goal run for the Blue Devils, who had dominated the early and late stages of the game. In Maryland’s most important game of the season, the Terps were thoroughly outplayed in the moments that mattered most.

“Obviously I didn’t do a very good job of getting them ready, which will sting for a while,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said after the game. “But all things considered, I just love our team, and I’m sorry we couldn’t get to Monday.”

The game played out in stages, similar to a three-act play. In the first act, Duke jumped out to an early lead, putting Maryland in a 6-0 hole before it could settle into the flow of the game. It started with snipes from Nakeie Montgomery and Foxborough native Sean Lowrie in the first quarter, and the run didn’t end until early in the second period. Before 18 minutes had passed, Maryland was facing its largest deficit all season.

Duke’s quick passing stymied the Terps defense, which led to miscommunication, late slides on defense and eventually goals, according to Tillman.

“We had some miscommunication early, and we were late,” Tillman said. “We actually picked up a little too late, and I think that’s part of what hurt us was when we addressed the ball—we picked up so late that they were a lot closer than they should have been, and then if you’re sliding late on top of that, you’re going to get good looks.”

In the second act, it looked like the Blue Devils started too fast, as the Terps cut the lead to 8-7 with 8:05 left in the third quarter. Maryland finally started to take care of the ball and took advantage of winning faceoffs, and got a huge energy play when Tim Rotanz trucked Justin Guterding, slipped and recovered and found Bubba Fairman who stepped into his shot and unleashed a rocket past Duke goalie Danny Fowler to cut the lead to one.

Then in the final act, Duke learned its lesson and pulled away, scoring four goals in a row while holding the Terps scoreless for 20 straight minutes. It’s a trick the Blue Devils pulled against Maryland’s archrival Johns Hopkins in Annapolis last weekend, letting the Blue Jays cut their lead to one before scoring three straight goals to pull away and seal the victory.

The turning point may have been after Fairman’s goal. Before Duke’s next score, the Terps had put together a solid defensive possession and forced a shot clock. Conley put one wide and out of bounds with eight seconds left on the clock, but Guterding found Joe Robertson from close range off the restart to push the lead back to two.

“When you get to this time of year, it’s really just about making the next play,” Fowler said. “And when you play a team like Maryland, you’re not going to hold them down for an entire game. So obviously they made their run, but I think we did a really good job.”

After that, Maryland struggled to get good looks on goal, getting stuffed by Fowler and having lanes swallowed up by Duke’s defense. It was a game-long struggle for the Terps against the Blue Devils defense, which caused 11 of Maryland’s 13 turnovers.

“They’re very athletic, from top to bottom,” Kelly said. “Some of their poles, their close guys, their shorties, they’re a handful ... but the biggest thing that stands out is their athleticism, but I thought we had a good offense implemented. I’ll take a lot of the blame. I sort of had some costly turnovers, costly shots, and that’s on me.”

A week after putting together as close to a full 60 minutes as it had all season, Maryland fell back into a season-long trend of looking great at times and mediocre at others. This time, the Terps’ inconsistency ended their season.