In previous seasons under coach John Tillman, the Maryland men’s lacrosse team was notorious for its patient approach on offense. This year, the squad’s reputation has shifted.
The Terps displayed a newfound willingness to storm forward on the counter attack during a 19-5 victory over High Point on Saturday, even though the strategy risked losing possession.
Often, the tactic resulted in a flurry of goals. In a five-minute stretch during the third quarter, for example, the squad scored four times to take a 16-3 lead.
Maryland’s ability to force turnovers, pick up ground balls and make the right decisions in transition has allowed Tillman to embrace a quicker style this campaign, leading to a more explosive offense.
“We’ve tried to continue to play faster,” Tillman said. “[Teams] play such good six-on-six defense, so if you can reduce numbers or get advantages or maybe create some opportunities before people get settled and organized, we want to at least test that.”
In three games, Maryland has scored 50 goals with many of its finishes coming off breakaways. Last season, the Terps needed five contests to reach the 50-goal mark.
One second-quarter break against High Point exemplified the Terps’ change of pace.
Goalkeeper Dan Morris blocked a shot and the ball ricocheted to the center of the field. When defender Bryce Young picked up the ground ball, he didn’t attempt to pass sideways or backward as Maryland coaches would have wanted in past campaigns. Instead, he put his head down and rushed ahead, vacating his defensive position to create a scoring opportunity.
Inside the attacking zone, he fed attackman Dylan Maltz, who converted his third goal of the afternoon.
Young picked up two of the Terps’ 45 total ground balls against the Panthers. The team also caused a season-high 10 turnovers.
Tillman said success in those areas helped Maryland push forward because “loose balls will turn into transition opportunities.” Plus, the defensive aggressiveness forced High Point out of its comfort zone.
“We were terrific off the ground all day long,” Tillman said. “The numbers reflect that. Against a tough team like High Point, getting those extra possessions is critical.”
Touting an experienced attack is perhaps the main reason the Terps are eager to transform their extra possessions into counter attacks. Tillman trusts senior starters Maltz, Matt Rambo and Colin Heacock to make smart decisions, so he allows them to freestyle on offense.
The reliable group, which together registered 167 points last year, combined for 11 points against High Point.
“It’s just different when you have three seniors out there,” Tillman said “The game comes a little slower for them, so it allows you to play faster.”
Maltz agreed, adding that the “tough” scout defenders the senior attackmen faced last week prepared them for the Panthers’ different defensive schemes.
Whenever Maltz, Rambo or Heacock recognized a change in High Point’s defensive strategy in Saturday’s game, they ran to the sideline to tell Tillman what they saw and how the team should respond.
That kind of active leadership has lifted the Terps this season and enabled them to reach a new pace on offense.
“We have a lot of trust in those guys when they’re making decisions,” Tillman said. “It’s obviously much different if you have a freshman or sophomore attack group. But when you have seniors and they have the ball, we have a lot of faith in them that they’re going to make the right choice and be unselfish.”