There was a degree of surprise to it, at least based on Jack Brennan’s celebration.

After all, Maryland men’s lacrosse had been second best for three quarters, struggling to defend Penn’s attacking threat — one centered around first-team All-American Sam Handley.

But there Brennan was, arms outstretched, walking toward the Terps’ sideline while nodding his head rhythmically. He had just given his team its first lead since the first quarter.

It was an edge Maryland wouldn’t relinquish, riding impressive performances from attackmen Jared Bernhardt and Daniel Maltz to a 17-15 comeback victory over the Quakers on Saturday.

“Beating good teams like we’re playing is not easy,” coach John Tillman said. “The key is when things aren’t going well, we have to handle that better.”

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Maryland was frantic from the opening minute, losing the opening faceoff and allowing Penn to set up its attack first. Soon enough, the ball would find Handley, who ripped a shot past netminder Chris Brandau to give the Quakers the lead 42 seconds into the game.

Handley would continue to pester the Terps’ backline, his 6-foot-5, 215-pound frame proving particularly difficult to push around in front of the crease. Even as Tillman’s squad began to center its gameplan around limiting Handley’s attacking quality — surrounding the first-team All-American with multiple defenders — the sophomore turned creator.

“On that offense, they got talent all over the board. No. 26 is a big, physical guy, we prepared for him all week,” defender Brett Makar said. “He’s an awesome player.”

Soon enough, it was attackmen Sean Lulley and Dylan Gergar whose names lit up the scoresheet, each netting a first-half hat-trick alongside Handley. Each score fostered life into a large contingent of Quakers fans who made the trek to College Park. And come the end of the first 45 minutes of game time, it was clear which side was on top — not only on the scoreboard, where Penn held a four-goal edge but in nearly every facet of the game.

“They were taking it to us for a good amount of that game,” Tillman said. “Early season is never pretty, but you hope you can find a way.”

[Read more: Maryland lacrosse is already reaping the rewards from John Geppert’s switch to defense]

The Terps, in contrast, labored for much of the opening three quarters. Attackmen Logan Wisnauskas and Anthony DeMaio and midfielder Bubba Fairman — central to much of what Maryland did well in its opening two games — were held quiet for large spells. Instead, the brunt of Maryland’s attacking responsibility rested on the shoulders of Bernhardt and Maltz.

Bernhardt found his goal-scoring footing late in the first, flashing a shot into the bottom-right corner. And it set the stage for an impressive display by the Tewaaraton hopeful, notching four goals and two assists to keep the Terps in the game.

But it was Maltz who was Maryland’s chief attacking threat, constantly occupying territory in front of the crease to the tune of two second- and third-quarter goals. And as the game shifted to its final frame, Maltz’s influence became evident.

“I’m usually a crease guy,” Maltz said. “Having those guys draw so much attention with Jared up top, Logan on the wing, and Anthony on the wing, I just find kinda find the soft spot and that helps me a lot.”

Maltz — who finished with a game-high five goals — took up a position mirroring goalkeeper Patrick Burkinshaw early in the fourth quarter, quickly snapping a shot past his stretch to cut the Quakers’ advantage to two.

And as Penn languished and began to rack up penalties, Mayland turned lethal, rattling off eight straight goals between the end of the third quarter and the final whistle. The Terps turned another fourth-quarter deficit into another comeback win — with a torrent pace from Maltz providing an edge this time around.

“It’s early season, and early season you’re still finding a way,” Tillman said. “We have so many new guys in new spots, … we just gotta continue to get better.”

Midfielder Jake Smith looks for an outlet with a Penn defender on his back during Maryland men’s lacrosse’s 17-15 win on Feb. 15, 2020. (Cam Andrews/The Diamondback)