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No. 2 Maryland men’s lacrosse shakes off slow start to blast Michigan, 18-12

The Terps fell behind 5-0, but scored 16 unanswered goals to pull away and remain undefeated.

Photo from @TerpsMLax

As Jared Bernhardt knifed through Michigan’s defense midway through the second quarter, it’s likely he and the defense knew exactly what was coming by the time he took possession. But it wasn’t stopping him from taking the dish from attacker Logan Wisnauskas and sinking a jump shot at the doorstep of the cage.

Maryland needed the score to take its first lead, and Bernhardt was looking to do whatever it took to make that happen.

Though Bernhardt’s goal looked to be the high point of Maryland’s then 6-0 run, it was only the beginning — the Terps had 10 more to go to. Maryland went on to use the 16-0 run to take an insurmountable lead, deal a vastly uneven response to Michigan’s initial 5-0 start and eventually take the 18-12 victory. But as it typically goes on the road, it wasn’t without some struggle early.

“[It was] obviously a strange game,” head coach John Tillman said. “Happy we got to win but a lot of things we just got to keep improving upon and to get better on.”

No. 2-ranked Maryland has improved a lot since Week One, but so has Michigan. And as the Wolverines trotted off to a 5-0 start, it became very clear who’s improvements were more substantial. The Terps had a mountain to climb, and they would have to do so incrementally.

If Maryland wanted to overcome its early five-goal deficit, its offensive possessions had to be deliberate, its defense had to show an improved level attentiveness and the faceoffs had to be won.

So the Terps did exactly that, and with the substitution of FOGO Justin Shockey to Luke Wierman, the comeback was underway — and Maryland wasn’t looking back.

To start, they got on the board with a split dodge shot by midfielder Bubba Fairman to get the Terps on the board. Four minutes passed and Jared Bernhardt netted his first shot from a feed by midfielder Anthony DeMaio to cut the lead down to three.

Possessions were not always clean, and Maryland was still at a severe disadvantage with shots taken, but the defense was locking down and faceoffs were converting thanks to a timely Wierman substitution.

When Maryland headed into the second quarter trailing 5-2, it seemingly decided to put the abysmal start behind it and claim control all for itself. And Fairman and Bernhardt continued to be the key difference makers.

The second quarter dominance began when Bernhardt snuck in his signature fadeaway shot from the X to legitimize Maryland’s gamebreaking run. Two goals later, by Fairman and Bernhardt respectively, the game was tied and Maryland’s once daunting deficit quickly vanished with 9:44 remaining in the second quarter.

But the offensive tear didn’t stop there. Maryland had time and plenty of firepower to snatch the lead and position itself early for a comfortable win. Four more goals found the back of the net and the Terps were scoring at will as Michigan lost faith in its ability to defend the best offense in the nation.

The Terps were scoring just about anywhere and anyway they pleased, but they opted to score the last few of the quarter from the from the crease, diming their way in front of the keeper with sublime accuracy.

“We have an unselfish group,” Tillman said. “When we’re playing our game and we’re changing where the ball is, and guys are just keeping the ball hot and they’re aggressive, that’s when we’re at our best.”

With Bernhardt’s goal to take the lead, followed by attacker Daniel Maltz two goals and DeMaio’s goal late in the second, Maryland left the half with a four point advantage that gave the impression it was in control all along, leading 9-5. In the second quarter, Maryland converted 7-15 shots, turned it over just once and entirely flipped its fortunes from the first frame.

The run continued as Maryland peppered the net seven more times in the third frame to finalize the 16-0 run that was halted by Avery Myers. And Michigan continued to score and add seven points to manufacture a more respectable deficit. However, as with most late game pushes by Maryland’s opposition, the effort was futile and the Terps walked away with a strong win and a record without a blemish.

Three things to know

1. Luke Wierman had another great afternoon. Without the services of Wierman at the X, Maryland’s 16-0 run was not a possibility. And with his success, it’s possible the Terps are a step closer to fixing their endless problems at the position. Wierman’s 15-for-25 rate at the X is also commendable because it was against Nick Rowlett, one of the better specialists of the Big Ten.

“I thought Luke Wierman, again, just did a terrific job of really jumping in and kind of bailing us out,” Tillman said. “Just whether it was winning the ball or keeping it loose or letting the wings, get involved, that was huge for us just because it allowed us to try to string together some goals in a row.”

2. A strong second quarter sealed it. Maryland typically wins its games in one quarter. This game was decided in the second. Maryland’s 7-0 onslaught was the most Maryland has scored in a quarter for the year, and the run of 16 unanswered goals was the longest all season. Maryland’s strong second quarter not only created a lead, it shot Michigan’s confidence and put the Wolverines’ upset hopes to bed.

3. Anthony DeMaio added to the balanced attack. DeMaio, like Fairman in the early parts of the season, failed to forge much of a scoring role on Maryland’s high-powered offense. The California native claimed a scoring role at Ann Arbor, where his five goals and two assists were instrumental in bolstering the Terps’ 16-0 run.

“For us like [scoring] should shift around a little bit,” Tillman said. “You give too much attention to one guy and other things should open up.”