Already working with a new-look roster and new defensive coordinator, the Maryland men’s lacrosse team’s game plan for Saturday’s season-opener against Navy changed after a phone call midday Friday.
The team’s trainer called coach John Tillman to reveal senior defenseman Bryce Young, who had practiced all week, suffered an injury and couldn’t play. A call from midfielder Connor Kelly about an hour later further complicated matters.
He told Tillman he was sick from food poisoning and didn’t sleep much Thursday night. His status for Saturday was unclear, but Kelly started.
Still, Maryland’s defense allowed just four goals and freshman midfielder Bubba Fairman recorded his first career hat trick to propel the Terps a 10-4 win at Maryland Stadium. The victory was Maryland’s 25th consecutive season-opening win and eighth straight against Navy.
“It was an interesting morning,” Tillman said of Friday’s phone conversations. “We went back to the coffee machine a little more than normal …We were definitely going down the depth chart [today].”
It marked an early and familiar matchup for Maryland, which will face nine ranked opponents this season as it attempts to win consecutive titles. No team has accomplished that feat since Duke in 2013-14.
Midfielder Tim Rotanz provided the Terps a lead 46 seconds into the contest, and they used momentum generated late in the second quarter in an extra-man situation to secure the win. Midshipmen goalkeeper Ryan Kern attempted to clear the ball with Terps converging on him, and Terps attacker Jared Bernhardt stripped it from Kern’s stick. Then, Kelly scored to push Maryland’s advantage to three.
Maryland boasted a 5-2 lead at intermission despite Navy outshooting it, 20-18, and losing six of nine faceoffs. The Midshipmen created good-look shots and ended the matchup with a 32-31 shooting advantage to the surprise of Navy coach Rick Sowell.
Then, with a numbers advantage early in the third, Kelly fed the ball to redshirt freshman midfielder Logan Wisnauskas, who extended Maryland’s edge to four scores. Fairman, Inside Lacrosse’s No. 2 overall recruit last year, put the game out of reach with a pair of consecutive goals later in the quarter.
Navy’s one-goal deficit early on was as close as it got to pulling off the upset, as the Terps’ defense, without Young and under first-year defensive coordinator Jesse Bernhardt’s leadership, was dominant.
“Everyone knows Maryland has a lot of pride in defense,” goalkeeper Dan Morris said. “It’s always been a defensive powerhouse program. We lose great players, but we have other players who develop into roles and get better.”
Even after Wisnauskas’ second-half score, Navy still challenged the Terps defense. Long-stick midfielder Nick Brozowski momentarily went down with a knee injury, and defenseman Michael Adler suffered from a cramp. As a result, with another game Tuesday against Marist, Tillman made routine substitutions late.
Nonetheless, Maryland’s attack thrived off its defense’s success. Fairman, Wisnaukas and midfielder Ethan Mintzer scored for the first time in their Maryland careers, and Rotanz added his own hat trick.
Maryland, which hasn’t lost a game since last April, extended its winning streak to eight games. Without their defensive leader and facing multiple injuries, the Terps adjusted.