Graduate student Teddy Dolan started in the cage for the first time in a Maryland men’s lacrosse jersey in its 15-12 victory over then-No. 16 Syracuse Saturday.

A Binghamton transfer, Dolan received playing time late in Maryland’s first two games against Richmond and No. 6 Loyola. His first Terps start came against the Orange following an injury to senior Logan McNaney, whom coach John Tillman doesn’t expect to see on the field any time soon.

While the Terps came out victorious, Dolan’s performance was far from perfect. He finished with a save percentage of just below 43 percent, allowing 12 goals while saving nine shots.

“For Teddy, there were some positioning things, I think some reaction things,” Tillman said.

Dolan struggled to react quickly to shots, as he always seemed to move a second too late.

When a loose ball was scooped up and fired toward Dolan from 10 yards out on Syracuse’s second score, he didn’t react quickly and couldn’t get his stick to the right spot. The shot went by him to his left and into the net as a result.

No score emphasized those issues more than the first goal of the fourth quarter, when he didn’t even flinch on a Joey Spallina goal. While the shot itself was exceptional — a no-look and behind-the-back strike — Dolan didn’t move a muscle. He stood still in the cage until the ball had already reached the back of the net.

[Shooting percentage, offensive efficiency down for Maryland men’s lacrosse early in season]

It wasn’t just Dolan’s reaction issues that gave him fits, as he also had trouble blocking uncontested looks.

Syracuse midfielder Luke Rhoa attempted a shot from 15 yards out early in the second quarter, and Dolan saw it the whole way. His eyes and body were facing Rhoa, and his stick was up ready to defend a potential shot. Yet Rhoa’s missile went right over Dolan’s head.

Syracuse’s opening goal of the second half was the same story.

Syracuse freshman midfielder Michael Leo ran in transition and found an opening in the upper right corner of the cage. Dolan reacted too slowly, turned around and looked down as the ball laid on the ground after finding the back of the net.

It felt like deja vu less than three minutes later on another transition goal despite Dolan’s stick being up.

[Dante Trader scores twice as No. 9 Maryland men’s lacrosse beats No. 18 Syracuse, 15-12]

Dolan is no McNaney.

Since becoming a full-time starter in 2021, McNaney had been an anchor in the cage for the Terps — and shined brightest in the biggest games. In Maryland’s NCAA championship run last season, he finished with a save percentage more than 60 percent in all four tournament games.

McNaney finished more than 70 percent in three of the four, including a 78 percent performance against Vermont. The save percentage was the second best of his career, behind only his 81 percent save rate in the 2021 NCAA tournament semifinals against Duke.

“Logan’s Logan … he’s gonna make a lot more good plays than bad plays,” Tillman said. “When it comes to him, yeah we might have been more aggressive in certain situations just because it played to his strengths and there was a high level of comfortability.”

Tillman said the plan right now is to “keep it simple” for Dolan.

Despite the struggles Dolan endured in the cage in his first start, Maryland’s defensive unit is confident in his goalkeeping ability as the season continues.

“We have a lot of trust and faith in Teddy,” junior defender Ajax Zappitello said. “We play such a systematic defense and we all have a lot of trust in each other, and I think that’s just going to carry on over.”

Dolan and the rest of the Maryland defense will be put to the test this weekend against No. 3 Princeton. Averaging 18 goals per game in their first two matchups, the Tigers won’t be easy to stop Saturday.