When Maryland men’s lacrosse faceoff specialist Justin Shockey struggled against then-No. 8 Rutgers on April 15, coach John Tillman turned to Austin Henningsen to give the unit a spark. Henningsen won six of 13 faceoffs to help the Terps secure their 11-10 win.
After that success, Tillman gave Henningsen the chance to start Sunday’s matchup with Ohio State. But Henningsen had trouble in the first half against the Buckeyes, and neither Shockey nor faceoff specialist Will Bonaparte was able to help the Terps secure consistent possessions.
So Maryland — which entered the weekend as the No. 1 team in the country — lost 12-10 at home to an unranked Ohio State squad and is left searching for answers at the faceoff X entering its regular-season finale at No. 7 Johns Hopkins on Saturday.
“[Ohio State has] a great faceoff guy,” midfielder Connor Kelly said. “We’ve got a great group, they continue to work each and every week. Credit to Ohio State, they’re really gritty off the wing.”
Buckeyes faceoff specialist Justin Inacio had the advantage from the outset, taking the first three faceoffs of the game and helping the visitors jump out to a 3-0 lead. It was the first time Maryland had trailed by three goals since April 12, 2017.
While the Terps were able to win three of eight faceoffs in the first quarter, they had fewer possessions after that. With Henningsen struggling to begin the second period, Maryland gave Bonaparte a chance, but he went 0-for-3 to round out the first half.
Maryland’s faceoff unit has sought consistency for the entire month of April, ever since Shockey — who’d secured a starting spot with strong play in March — had a 3-for-12 performance against Michigan on March 31.
“The challenge for us is to try to get everybody in a good place,” Tillman said. “If we can get everybody on the same page and keep improving on that wing play, good things will happen.”
Despite their faceoff problems, the Terps entered the intermission tied with the Buckeyes at six.
To begin the second half, Tillman went back to Shockey, who easily outperformed Henningsen and Bonaparte’s combined 3-for-14 mark. The freshman snagged two faceoffs in the third quarter and four in the fourth, finishing 6-for-12.
Tillman was pleased with Shockey’s production, but the Terps were still outscored in both quarters as they struggled to turn possessions into offense.
Inacio ended the day 17-for-26, helping hand Maryland its second loss this season.
“They’ve got a great unit,” Ohio State coach Nick Myers said. “A lot of those ground balls were 50/50. We were fortunate they came up our way. That was a really good unit we played today.”
It was the second time this season that Maryland’s faceoff issues cost the team a win. An 0-for-6 fourth quarter against Albany on March 10 resulted in five consecutive Great Danes scores, and a middling performance Sunday gave the Terps few chances to make up ground on the frenetic Buckeyes.
“We’ve got to come out of the locker room with more energy,” midfielder Adam DiMillo said. “That starts inside the locker room.”