When senior goalkeeper Logan McNaney went down with a lower-body injury and hobbled off Awalt Field late in the fourth quarter of No. 9 Maryland men’s lacrosse’s 12-7 loss to No. 6 Loyola, uncertainties began to form in the cage for the Terps.

Binghamton transfer Teddy Dolan, who received minimal playing time in the first two games of the season, started the following game against No. 19 Syracuse. The Terps defeated the Orange, but Dolan battled through struggles as he finished with a sub-50 save percentage.

Still, coach John Tillman felt he played “fine.”

There was no reason to believe Dolan wouldn’t start against No. 3 Princeton Saturday. He started 28 games for Binghamton and gave Tillman an experienced option at goalkeeper without McNaney.

But it wasn’t Dolan who started against the Tigers.

Freshman Brian Ruppel played all 60 minutes in the cage for Maryland and looked like a savvy veteran. The No. 3 goalkeeper in the Class of 2022 did not disappoint in his debut, finishing with 14 saves and a 73 percent save rate. His 14 saves were the most by a freshman in program history in his first career start since Brian Dougherty in 1993.

“I thought he played incredibly well for a young guy,” Tillman said. “A lot of poise, good decisions in the clearing game, and obviously timely saves when we needed them.

[No. 9 Maryland men’s lacrosse cruises past No. 3 Princeton, 11-5]

The first shot the young goalkeeper faced was sent a little above his head, but the 6-foot Ruppel showed no issues as he reacted well to notch his first career save.

Ruppel’s second save was impressive, as he quickly brought his stick down to block a Sam English shot — the first of many saves where Ruppel went to the ground to avoid a low-goal. English scored 30 times for the Tigers a season ago, but Ruppel remained calm and collected to thwart the attempt early in the second quarter.

Ruppel allowed a goal shortly after, but then made six saves the rest of the quarter to keep the Terps narrowly ahead entering halftime. That stretch included a minute-long stand that saw two Tigers shots sail wide and Ruppel blocking another two; the latter went directly into his stick in front of the cage, ending a great stand by the Maryland defense.

Maryland blew the game open with a seven-goal third quarter, but it was Ruppel’s performance on the defensive end that gave the Terps a cushion. He made three saves in the quarter, two of which showcased his quick reflexes as he went low yet again to hinder Princeton shots.

But arguably no Ruppel save was more impressive than his 13th with just more than seven minutes left in the game.

[Maryland men’s lacrosse aims to ‘keep it simple’ for new goalkeeper Teddy Dolan]

With English running full steam toward him and shooting less than a foot away, Ruppel put up his stick while turning his head away just for a moment, seeming as if he prepared for the possibility of getting hit. Ruppel snagged the ball in his stick, looking as if he took it right out of English’s stick.

That save evidenced what Ruppel displayed all game against the Tigers: He didn’t back down from a challenge. 

“I think Brian proved that he was ready for the moment, and the moment wasn’t too big for him,” Tillman said. “Certainly happy for him.

Ruppel became the first freshman to start for the Terps since McNaney started a pair of games in the 2020 season.

“We’ll see how it goes this week, but I don’t think he hurt his chances for next week at all,” Tillman said.

There is not a designated starter for Maryland’s next test against No. 2 Notre Dame. But if Ruppel can repeat his performance against Princeton, the Terps may have found their man in the cage for the rest of the season.