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Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. Johns Hopkins Big Ten tournament preview

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It’s The Rivalry ... again.

Maryland lacrosse vs. Penn State Lila Bromberg / Testudo Times

Of the 119 times that Maryland and Johns Hopkins have played one another, Thursday night marks the first time that the two teams have played each other in back-to-back games.

The then-No. 2 Terps fell to Hopkins in College Park on Saturday night in the final game of the regular season, helping secure a spot for the Blue Jays in the Big Ten tournament and a rematch with Maryland the following week. Maryland opened up a 5-1 lead over the Jays late in the first quarter, but was outscored 15-6 from that point on.

“We certainly did some things well early,” head coach John Tillman said. “I think obviously when you look and you give up nine goals in a half and 16 overall, those are just things that at Maryland, it’s never going to be acceptable.”

Now, Maryland is faced with the same task as last weekend, but won’t have the luxury of playing on its home field, with the Big Ten tournament being held in Piscataway, New Jersey.

Game information

Thursday, May 2, 7:30 p.m. ET, HighPoint.com Stadium, Piscataway, New Jersey

TV: Big Ten Network — Joe Beninati (Play-by-play), Mark Dixon (analyst)

Streaming: BTN2Go.com

Radio: lacrossetalkradio.com

What happened this season

Maryland had a near immaculate nonconference slate, going 8-1 with its lone loss coming in overtime on the road to Notre Dame. The Terps also beat now-No. 3 Penn on the road in overtime, with wins over No. 20 Villanova, No. 18 North Carolina and Navy as well. Maryland got off to a strong start in conference play too, despite falling to Penn State in its Big Ten opener. The Terps beat Rutgers and Ohio State in two fairly hostile environments and defeated Michigan, who just beat Ohio State, at home by four goals. But their loss to Johns Hopkins moved them to 3-2 in conference play, finishing third in the conference.

Johns Hopkins, for the most part, had an up-and-down season before taking down the Terps in College Park. The Blue Jays hovered around .500 for most of the season, often taking two steps forward and one step back throughout their conference and nonconference schedules. They put together a couple quality wins over Princeton and North Carolina but couldn’t build off them, following with losses to Syracuse and Virginia. But their win over Maryland was easily a huge momentum and confidence builder. Combine that with a single loss dictating whether or not its season ends, expect Hopkins to leave it all out on the field Thursday night.

What happened Saturday

Losses by Rutgers and Ohio State ultimately clinched Hopkins’ tournament berth, but it appeared Dave Pietramala’s squad wasn’t going to leave anything up to chance when it came to College Park on Maryland Day. The Blue Jays fell behind early, but responded with their backs against the wall and their season possibly on the line in a way the Terps weren’t prepared for.

“They’re a very good team,” senior defender Curtis Corley said. “They scouted us really well. They knew exactly what to do. I’m just thankful we get another shot at them.”

A couple of spirited runs helped the Blue Jays blow past Maryland, putting together two stretches of three unanswered goals and one stretch of five unanswered to comfortably beat the Terps 16-11.

Here’s the full recap from Saturday’s matchup.

Three things to watch

1. How will Maryland respond to the loss? Losses, and especially those that involve getting handled by a lesser team, can have a humbling effect for the squad on the losing end. After each of Maryland’s previous two losses this season (Notre Dame and Penn State), the Terps went go on to win their next three games each time, so maybe their most recent loss could possibly spark another run.

“I think the biggest benefit of losing a game is just taking that film and going in and just really looking at what you can do as an individual, as a defensive unit or as an offensive unit and really hammer away at those little things and just get a little bit better,” Corley said. “There’s not things that are, like, drastically different that you need to change from game-to-game, it’s just little tiny things you can kinda tweak here and there. It makes a bigger impact down the stretch.”

2. How much will Maryland adjust coming into this one? It would appear not much. From what the coaches and players have said regarding their strategy of attack, Maryland feels comfortable with the game plan they had in place last game and don’t plan on changing much outside of effort and execution.

“I think for the most part, it came down to a lot of execution [errors],” sophomore short-stick defensive midfielder Roman Puglise said. “We were up pretty good, and then they stormed right back, so I think it’s just our execution and how we’re approaching it, not so much our game plan and X’s and O’s as much as, individually, what we’re gonna do and how we’re gonna clean up those little errors.”

3. Who will step up for the Terps offensively? One of the luxuries Tillman has enjoyed with this year’s squad is the collection of offensive threats that can put together a big performance in any given game. Last week it was Bubba Fairman, who led the offense with five goals on six shots, but what will Jared Bernhardt (two goals vs. Hopkins) and Logan Wisnauskas (one goal, three assists) contribute this time around? Hopefully, it won’t be just one player the Terps have to lean on to carry them to victory, but a collective effort. When Maryland can keep defenses guessing, that’s when it’s at its best.