The end to the first half of the Terrapins men’s lacrosse team’s match Saturday ended anticlimactically.
Princeton gained possession with time expiring, but the Terps defense locked down in front of the net and denied the Tigers a last-second shot.
Then they jogged off the field, slapping high-fives with the coaches and reserves on the sideline before entering the locker room for a breather.
But what transpired in the 30 minutes prior was far from unexciting. They arrived in Princeton, New Jersey, averaging 3.25 first-half goals per game, yet the Terps refreshed during Saturday afternoon’s intermission holding an 11-2 lead.
That early scoring barrage — eight Terps found the back of the net at least once in the opening half — propelled coach John Tillman’s team to a 17-5 victory against the Tigers.
“It’s a momentum game,” Tillman said. “We’ve had a coupled games where we just didn’t have it. We’ve been fighting, fighting, fighting. And today was just nice to see that things were flowing a little bit more.”
Faceoff specialist Austin Henningsen set the tone as he raced down the field seven seconds after the opening whistle, faking a shot to his left before lacing his first career score into the net. Attackman Matt Rambo followed with a score of his own 50 seconds later.
By the end of the first quarter, the Terps had built a 6-1 lead at Sherrerd Field, each score coming off the stick of a different player.
When the final whistle blew, 11 Terps had recorded at least goal and 14 had contributed at least one point. Midfielder Pat Young paced the team with four points on a pair of goals and assists, while midfielder Colin Heacock added a hat trick.
Perhaps the loudest cheers of the day came on the final point of the first frame when Young put a spin dodge on his defender 10 yards in front of the net. As his shot sailed into the cage, the crowd, which included some of the senior transfer’s friends and family members from his native Ewing, New Jersey, erupted.
His teammates on the field enveloped him in celebration, slapping his helmet. As he trotted to the sideline, the coaches did the same.
Young’s production came as part of the Terps’ second midfield line, which also features attackman Tim Rotanz (one goal) and midfielder Lucas Gradinger (one goal, two asissts). That trio racked up eight points Saturday, including six in the opening 30 minutes.
“The group of Pat, Lucas and Timmy, they’re just continuing to get better,” Tillman said.” That was really one of the things going into the season — we hope to get more our of our two midfield groups.”
The Terps could have taken their foot off the gas with their nine-goal gap at halftime, Tillman said, but his staff ensured the players kept their energy high.
In the locker room, defensive coordinator Kevin Conroy harped on his unit about their lapses on the Tigers’ two connections. Offensive coordinator J.L. Reppert urged his group to stay in its groove.
Princeton, too, appeared to return with renewed urgency. The Tigers won the opening faceoff and tallied two quick shots. Goalkeeper Kyle Bernlohr (nine saves) deflected the first, while the second look bounced off the right pipe.
That’s when the Terps cleared possession, and midfielder Henry West netted his first goal of the season on the other end.
Many of the Terps reserves saw action in the second half. They contributed to the offensive effort that saw the Terps shoot 45 percent and finish with a season-high scoring and the defensive pressure that surrendered the fewest goals of 2016.
When the final horn sounded, the Terps jogged into a circle filled with more high-fives and pats. Then they lined up for the handshake line, a mundane celebration for the team’s most lopsided performance of the campaign.
“We’re starting to get some continuity and guys are getting a little bit more comfortable in their roles,” Tillman said. “We learned from the two losses, the guys used that as motivation.”