ANNAPOLIS – In past seasons, Maryland men’s lacrosse coach John Tillman has struggled to control his emotions when facing Navy, the program he worked at as an assistant for 12 years.
But Tillman felt better prepared to keep his feelings in check when Terps faced the Midshipmen in their season opener on Saturday. It’s been a decade since he last coached in Annapolis, and even though he maintains close relationships with many of his former co-workers, he said he owed it to his current players to remain level-headed.
In turn, Tillman hoped No. 2 Maryland would show on-field discipline against No. 11 Navy despite the excitement of a new campaign. It worked as the Terps did not commit a penalty, had just 11 turnovers and leaned on a dominant offensive display to beat the Midshipmen, 15-12.
“We’re proud of our guys coming into a tough place to win,” Tillman said. “To come out and get a win in the opener was I thought a great accomplishment.”
Attackman Dylan Maltz registered four goals to lead the team, attackman Matt Rambo had three scores and three assists and Colin Heacock added two goals and three feeds.
Heacock said being tight-knit off the field with his partners on offense has made their on-field connection impeccable.
“We’re all so close,” Heacock said. “I live with Rambo and Maltz lives right down the street. So we’re always hanging out … The chemistry we have off the field makes a big difference.”
Tillman lauded the trio adjusting early in the contest. The offense tried to attack too fast in the opening minutes, Tillman said, leading to a flurry of turnovers that left the defense exposed. But as the game progressed, Heacock, Rambo and Maltz become more patient.
“Our older players recognized the need to play a little slower at times,” Tillman said. “When they did that, it gave our defense a rest and we got a little bit of flow going. Credit [to them] for getting us organized on offense.”
Maryland took just seven seconds to score its first goal. Faceoff specialist Austin Henningsen won the opening draw, sprinted down the field and launched a low shot past Navy goalkeeper Ryan Kern.
After the shot rippled the back of the net, Terps on the sideline let out a roar and converged in an impromptu huddle, with players leaping onto one another in celebration.
But less than a minute later, Navy attackman Chris Hill responded by picking up a loose ball in front of the net and whipping a low shot past Terps goalkeeper Dan Morris.
With just under six minutes remaining in the first period and Navy ahead, 2-1, the Midshipmen cleared after defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen failed to convert a long shot. But Morris stuffed a low effort.
Midfielder Connor Kelly tied the game 30 seconds later, and Maltz followed with a high shot into the top left of the net to take a 3-2 advantage.
The Terps and Midshipmen traded goals in the second quarter, and with 16 seconds left, the score was tied at five. Tillman called a timeout to orchestrate a final play before the intermission.
But the ball didn’t go to stars like Rambo or Heacock. Instead, with 0.1 seconds on the clock, freshman midfielder Jared Bernhardt scored his first career goal for a 6-5 lead and what Tillamn called “huge for momentum.”
Two minutes into the second half, Navy drew even, but the stalemate did not last.
Maryland dominated possession over the ensuing stretch and scored four unanswered goals in four minutes, capped by Heacock’s first of the season.
With five seconds left in the third, Heacock gave the Terps an 11-8 lead, on a diving shot from the right side.
Maryland used a string of big plays from its starting attackmen to pull away in the fourth period. First, Rambo scored his second and third goals of the contest. Moments after Rambo’s third strike, Maltz punctuated the run to give the Terps a 14-8 lead.
During that stretch, Maryland scored on all four of its shots.
Afterward, Navy coach Rick Sowell lamented the way his team failed to convert its scoring chances while Maryland’s high-powered scoring trio put up 9 goals on just 17 shots.
“They took advantage of their opportunities and we didn’t,” Sowell said. “That was the difference in the game.”