For the first 55 minutes of Maryland men’s lacrosse’s game against No. 8 Rutgers on Sunday at Maryland Stadium, neither attackman Anthony DeMaio nor midfielder Tim Rotanz registered a point.
But with just under five minutes remaining in the game, DeMaio beat goalkeeper Max Edelmann and tied the score. Forty-eight seconds later, Rotanz found the net to give the Terps a 10-9 lead.
No. 1 Maryland used those conversions to claim a back-and-forth affair, 11-10, and extend its winning streak to five.
“These games are always tough and they’re always tight,” coach John Tillman said. “Rutgers, every year we play them, it seems like it’s a one-goal game. … There’s certainly a lot that we can learn, but I just loved our guys’ fight and their grit today.”
Midfielder Connor Kelly tallied eight total points, and midfielder Bubba Fairman added a hat trick in the victory.
Kelly entered Sunday as Maryland’s leader in points, and he displayed his offensive versatility early on, assisting the Terps’ first three goals. Six seconds after the third, Kelly chipped in a score of his own to give the Terps a 4-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the contest.
Tillman said he hasn’t “seen anybody that has a bigger impact on any team” than his senior leader.
“[Kelly was the] best kid on the field,” Rutgers coach Brian Brecht said. “He certainly made us pay. I wish we could have contained him a little bit more.”
Maryland (10-1, 3-0 Big Ten) held Rutgers (8-4, 1-2 Big Ten) scoreless in the first quarter, as goaltender Dan Morris notched four saves and the Scarlet Knights had four turnovers.
Rutgers broke through early in the second quarter, but Kelly responded with an unassisted strike. With its four-goal cushion back intact, Maryland appeared poised to cruise to its third victory against a top-10 opponent this season.
Instead, the Terps lost their composure.
Maryland committed five of its seven first-half penalties after Kelly made the score 5-1, allowing the Scarlet Knights plenty of possession and opportunities. Rutgers tallied four unanswered goals to level the score at the break.
Tillman’s message to his team at halftime focused on the fact that the Terps were still in a good position despite the uncharacteristic miscues.
“We talk about playing with emotion but not playing emotional,” Kelly said. “Coach stressed at halftime that we played a little bit emotional in the first half but I thought halftime was a good reset button so we could get it all back together and compose ourselves.”
Rutgers extended its streak to five unanswered goals in the third quarter before Fairman equalized. From there, the teams exchanged scores, with neither able to establish more than a one-goal advantage — until the 3:21 mark in the fourth quarter, when Kelly notched his fourth goal of the game to give Maryland an 11-9 advantage.
Kelly’s eight points set the tone, and his final score was ultimately the game-winner, but he credited Fairman, attackman Jared Bernhardt (two goals) and others when asked if he took charge of the game.
“They help me out so much, and I help them,” Kelly said. “It’s a give-take with all of us, and I trust them with anything with the ball in their stick at any time.”
Though the Scarlet Knights tacked on one more to keep it close, the Terps ran the final seconds off the clock to remain unbeaten in Big Ten play with two more regular-season conference contests remaining.
Coming off four straight contests outside College Park and facing rain and a time change for Sunday’s game, Tillman said his team overcame a lot to pull off the victory — Maryland’s sixth against a ranked opponent this season.
“[We] battled and battled,” Tillman said. “To have them come back late shows a lot about their mental toughness.”