PHILADELPHIA — As the final seconds of the allotted warm-up time ticked off the clock at Penn’s Franklin Field, swarms of people donning Terrapins men’s lacrosse gear and the Maryland state flag pattern filled a section in the north end of the stadium.
With the Terps playing about two hours from College Park and close to some of the players’ hometowns, the team’s fans came in full support.
A young boy, Matt Rambo’s cousin, wearing a white T-shirt with the attackman’s name printed on the back, patrolled the empty rows of seats and often perched himself on the front railing, studying the Terps on offense. Each time one of coach John Tillman’s players scored, five women in the third row held up signs spelling “Terps” while the rest of the section stood, clapping and high-fiving.
That scene played out 13 different times Tuesday afternoon in Philadelphia as the No. 5 Terps downed Penn, 13-8, to cruise to their fifth straight victory.
“We always travel, I think, better than any other team,” goalkeeper Kyle Bernlohr said, “so we always know we’re going to get the bigger crowd no matter where we are.”
But before the chanting and sign-waving began, the Terps faithfuls went silent. The Quakers jumped out to a 2-0 lead less than two minutes into the contest, the scores coming in a 10-second span against the Terps’ 10th-ranked defense.
The hush didn’t last for long, however, as the crowd reverted to cheering for faceoff specialist Austin Henningsen when he fought for the next possession.
Soon, Rambo cut the deficit to one. Then midfielder Pat Young knotted the game at two. Before the first 15 minutes elapsed, the Terps had built a 6-3 cushion, with five Terps contributing at least one score.
“Tuesday afternoon games, you just never know what’s going to happen; it’s a weird vibe,” Tillman said. “The guys just did a good job of kind of powering through after that 2-0 start and then kind of just kept digging and digging.”
The Quakers didn’t succumb to the early pressure, clawing back within one goal less than six minutes into the second frame. So the Terps players and fans roared back in tandem.
Chants of “defense” rang onto the field after a turnover by Rambo gave the Quakers the opportunity to tie the game. But that mantra dissolved to a collective “Woo!” as midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen picked up a ground ball from a turnover, flipping possession.
Tillman called for his team, nursing a three-point lead, to hold on to the ball as clock wound down in the first half. Then midfielder Bryan Cole cut toward the net, falling to the ground as his shot hit the back of the net with six seconds remaining in the period.
The cheering didn’t stop until the Terps entered the locker room, Cole and Rambo sharing a fist bump and conversation on the way.
The pace slowed over the last 30 minutes of the game. Midfielder Colin Heacock completed a hat trick — he and Rambo led all scorers with three goals apiece — about five minutes out of the break, and Penn didn’t answer until the fourth quarter.
“Once we scored and went up a couple of goals, we settled down naturally,” Bernlohr said.
When the Quakers did solve their defense with about eight minutes left in the game, Cole and Rambo negated any comeback hopes with scores about a minute apart, the latter drawing a “Yeah, Terps” yell from Rambo’s cousin.
A jacket covered Rambo’s name on the back of the young boy’s shirt, but he took a break from walking through the top row of the section to slam his fists down in celebration. After a late score from Penn, he returned to the front row of the section to watch the final seconds tick off the clock.
At the horn, the rest of the fans joined him at the railing to congratulate the players as the Terps trotted over to share in the excitement of extending their winning streak to five games.
“We all know this: that we have the best fans in the country — they are everywhere, and they are louder than the other fans,” Rambo said shortly after he posed for a picture with two boys in the tunnel under the stands. “It just gets us fired up.”