Knowing the strength of his opponent in No. 4 Rutgers, Jared Bernhardt had to set the tone throughout, and he did so with his fifth score of the game at the start of the fourth quarter, giving No. 3 Maryland men’s lacrosse its first multiple possession lead since the opening minutes.
The attacker, notorious for making the difficult look easy, scored his fifth goal unassisted from the right side of the post. Firmly backing down his opponent with his lean six-foot frame, Bernhardt eased his way past the smaller defender and eventually got the ball past Rutgers’ Colin Kirst — without turning his body and seemingly without breaking a sweat.
He was a lifeline for Maryland at times, providing timely goals when the offense needed a sparkplug. His score started an 8-2 run for the Terps, which combined with a hounding defense that dominated in the second half, allowed Maryland to handily silence Rutgers and take a 19-12 victory Saturday.
“It wasn’t always pretty at times but I loved the competitiveness [and the fight] of our guys,” head coach John Tillman said. “It was a really big win in so many ways.”
To be the best, you have to beat the best. And though they didn’t topple the best team in the nation, the The Terps dispatched a Rutgers team better than most. The high-octane victory, while concerning at times, allowed Maryland to remain undefeated and dealt Rutgers its first blemish in an otherwise perfect start to its 2021 campaign.
Maryland didn’t start slow for this match, but neither did Rutgers. This contest was very much the heavyweight bout it was pegged to be. And as both sides traded blows in the opening minutes, the score became more and more indicative of who had the better chin, or in this case, the best defense.
Going into the contest it was understood that the offense would force the issue and ultimately get the job done. The surprise however, came in how the Terps’ offense looked significantly cleaner early. In just their first possession, attackman Daniel Maltz scored an easy opening goal as the beneficiary of a three player set. The ball moved faster than the Rutgers defenders could react, granting an opportunity for Maltz to put Maryland up one with another quick, tap in, shot that has been a hallmark of his play all year.
Bernhardt joined in on the offensive fun and notched three goals of his own to put Maryland up three. The lead could have been four if it weren’t for the excellence of Rutgers attackman Adam Charalambides, who immediately scored less than a minute after Maltz scored his. Bernhardt was seemingly doing everything on his own during his three goal tear, scoring from the X twice and once from deep off an assist from midfielder Bubba Fairman.
“I think [Bernhardt] is the best player in the country,” Tillman said. “He just does everything well ... You feel his presence everywhere.”
Still, Bernhardt’s efforts weren’t as consequential as the 4-1 score would indicate — Rutgers was still on Maryland’s heels.
The momentum shifted rapidly as Rutgers offense became increasingly more comfortable facing off against Maryland’s defense. And its success on the offensive side of the field, in turn, fueled the efforts of the defense. For around 12 minutes, Maryland’s offense was held scoreless for the longest it had all season. And as the Scarlet Knights began to pepper the net on the opposite end, things began to look dire.
Vitalized by the defense, Rutgers offense went on a 5-1 run spanning through the first and second quarter and captured its first lead of the match at 6-5 with 9:11 left in the half. A lead that wouldn’t hold for long, but would send a strong message and prompt increased urgency from Maryland. And in spite of the three goal response by attackman Logan Wisnauskas, midfielder Josh Coffman and Bernhardt, the Rutgers lead regressed just to a 9-9 tie by the end of the half.
In the third, Maryland’s defense returned to its former glory and actively pestered Rutgers to the best of its ability. Shots were defected, sticks clanged off the pads of attackers and turnovers were forced. The score was the perfect illustration of Maryland’s efforts, as it would only allow just one Rutgers goal after conceding six in the previous quarter. The toiling work of the defense to stifle Rutgers elite attack, coupled with Marylands clean work in transition allowed for the Terps to regain a punctual 11-10 lead before the end of the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter Maryland put everything together and the floodgates opened. In the faceoff, on defense and offense the Terps were elite and the Scarlet Knights looked significantly weaker, folding in crunch time. The defense remained stout, holding Rutgers defense to two goals and opening up more opportunities for the offense to convert. A call to action they readily answered — with resounding success.
“Guys were just settling in,” Bernhardt said. “[The Scarlet Knights] weren’t sliding too much ... if they’re not sliding we just gotta beat our matchups and score it, if they start sliding we have guys who’re just gonna move it. And we’ll find guys and guys will be able to finish.”
Maryland went on to score eight times in the fourth and pass its first true test of the season with flying colors.
Three things to know
1. Maryland limited its turnovers when it needed to. Unlike most contests this year, Maryland had a rather clean start. The Terps only committed one turnover in the first frame but went on to commit four more as the Scarlet Knights went on their 5-1 run. The Terps offensive tidiness was key in their ability to score. So when the Terps committed one turnover in the final frame, the results ended up being a gorgeous offensive display that included eight goals and a game winning run. For the first time all season Maryland kept their total turnovers under ten, with nine in the afternoon.
“It’s huge when you’re not turning the ball over,” Tillman said. “[The offensive] guys pride themselves on stick work and they’re really unselfish.”
2. Justin Shockey had a day at the faceoff. After holding strong for the better part of the entire contest, Shockey dominated to start the fourth quarter and helped Maryland convert 8 of their 12 shots in the final frame. His six faceoff wins were crucial in thrusting Maryland past Rutgers and his 18 won faceoffs in the match were a season best. After starting slow on the season and struggling to familiarize himself with the new faceoff rules, Shockey finally looks to be in a grove. With his work, Maryland may be adding another layer to their elite squad.
“He was huge last week and he was huge this week,” Tillman said. “You wanna see guys go through some struggles and respond the right way and Justin certainly has done that.”
3. Jared Bernhardt set the tone throughout. As astonishing as it seems, Bernhardt hasn’t had a game as good as this one this season. His single-man, three-goal run was integral in setting the tone early and forcing the issue, while his fourth was crucial in recapturing Maryland’s lead after Rutgers’ second quarter onslaught. Bernhardt’s fifth tied his career-high and gave Maryland its first multiple-possession lead since the start of the contest. Bernhardt would ultimately score six, tally a brand new career high in goals and lead both teams in scoring.
“He’s such a great player, he’s a great leader — he’s the best.” freshman Eric Malever said.