Just over one minute into Maryland men’s lacrosse’s season opener on Saturday, defender Curtis Corley ran towards the midfield line on a clearing attempt, but had the ball knocked out of his stick. Less than a minute later, Bucknell capitalized on the error with a goal to take an early lead.
Through the inauspicious start and a sloppy game overall, with 17 total turnovers, the No. 3 Terps defeated the Bisons 11-6 at Maryland Stadium to open their regular season.
“Kind of what we expected, a real good Bucknell team got on the board first and [we] had to fight and scrap,” coach John Tillman said. “Wasn’t pretty, but proud of the effort.”
Attackman Logan Wisnauskas helped Maryland (1-0) navigate through a game mired in turnovers, with 29 combined from both sides. The sophomore scored four goals and recorded an assist in the win, the Terps’ 26th straight in a season-opener.
Wisnauskas’ effort was critical, as Bucknell (0-1) held Maryland’s top returning scorer Jared Bernhardt in check for most of the game.
Bernhardt scored twice for Maryland and dished out one assist, all of which came after halftime, but Maryland’s offense had to adapt to the heavy attention Bucknell paid to the junior attackman and take other open opportunities.
“They were kind of keying on Jared,” said Wisnauskas, who tied a career-high in points with five. “Every team will, he’s one of the best players in the country.”
Bucknell also applied pressure on Maryland’s clears, and a newly modified shot clock added another variable of pressure, as Maryland turned the ball over eight times in the first half. Starting this season, teams have 20 seconds to advance the ball past midfield, and another 60 seconds to shoot.
The Bison employed a number of different rides to deter or slow down Maryland’s clearing attempts from the defensive end. Among those included a 10-man ride, an aggressive defensive look where all 10 players are defending all over the field, including the goalie — who leaves the net vacant.
“Bucknell, they’ve got a really good ride,” Corley said. “They put pressure on us down there pretty fast. They’re really athletic. We just had to find our looks, hit the open guys and then we were able to clear the ball pretty well.”
After a first half where Bucknell gave Maryland some troubles, the emphasis during the halftime break was taking control of the game early on to squash the Bison’s upset bid.
“Credit to [Bucknell], they pretty much held us in check for the first half,” Wisnauskas said. “Coach Tillman put an emphasis on coming out in the third quarter, like the first five minutes, and making sure we made our statement, which we did. We came out firing.”
During that third quarter, Maryland outscored Bucknell 4-1 to take open up a five-goal advantage.
Giving away possessions is uncharacteristic of Tillman-led teams. Last season, Maryland turned the ball over at the lowest rate in the nation, with 9.83 per game. Yet the adjustment in the rules marked a sharp contrast in Maryland’s style of play. Of Maryland’s 17 errors, three came on failed clears and three on shot clock violations.
Two of those shot clock violations came in the fourth quarter, as Maryland attempted to run out the clock with a multi-goal cushion.
The 17 turnovers surpassed Maryland’s high-mark of the 2018 season, when they gave away 14 possessions in an early season game against High Point.
“We’ve just got to clean up our turnovers,” Tillman said. “If we can get better at that, which at this time of the year, you hope that we can improve upon, but the kids will stay focused.”