Maryland men’s lacrosse entered the final minute of the first quarter down 3-2.
Then, the Terps’ offense revved up.
They struck three times over the final minute of the frame, and followed that up with three more scores in the first minute of the second quarter.
In a two-minute span, the Terps flipped the game on its head. They turned a one-goal deficit into a five-goal lead, and never trailed the rest of the way.
No. 2 Maryland (6-2, 1-0 Big Ten) used that scoring spurt — in addition to its excellent second half defense — to down No. 10 Penn State (5-3, 0-1 Big Ten) in its conference opener at SECU Stadium on Saturday, 13-10.
“Even though maybe we were a little sloppy at times, the guys were unselfish and super competitive,” coach John Tillman said.
Penn State won the opening face-off and attacker TJ Malone took advantage, bouncing a shot past Brian Ruppel to put the Nittany Lions on the board first. But Maryland responded with a pair of goals from an unlikely duo — sophomore attacker Zach Whittier and freshman midfielder Eric Kolar — to go up 2-1 at the 6:13 mark of the opening quarter.
Kolar and Whittier entered the day with just three combined goals on the season, but scored the first two for the Terps.
That lead lasted less than three minutes as Jack Traynor struck twice in the span of two minutes to put Penn State back in front.
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But three goals in the last minute of the quarter from a trio of Terps — Eric Spanos, Dante Trader Jr. and Kyle Long — gave Maryland a 5-3 lead 15 minutes in.
Spanos’ score came right before he took a hard hit to the body and went down to the ground. He stayed on the turf for a moment before slowly making his way to the Maryland sideline, where he stayed for the remainder of the game.
“[The athletic staff didn’t] feel comfortable putting him back in, and I trust our people, so we had to hold him out,” Tillman said.
The Terps started the second frame the same way they ended the first: Three goals in the span of a minute. Trader, Kolar and Daniel Kelly all found the back of the net, extending Maryland’s scoring run to six.
Penn State responded with a 5-1 scoring run — with goals courtesy of five different players — to bring the Nittany Lions within one, 9-8, at the 2:58 mark of the quarter.
Junior midfielder Jack Koras struck with just four seconds left in the half to halt the Nittany Lions’ momentum entering the break.
Maryland outshot Penn State 34-16 in the first half but led just 10-8 at halftime. The Terps’ offensive inefficiency issues that have been an Achilles heel all season long continued in the first 30 minutes against the Nittany Lions. They finished with a shooting rate of just 25.5 percent, their fifth game this season with a sub-30 shooting percentage.
[Most people struggle to star in one sport. Dante Trader Jr. shines in two for Maryland.]
Both sides connected two minutes into the second half, but the game then endured a lull period over the final 13 minutes of the third quarter as each defense ramped up its intensity. The 17-minute drought that extended into the final frame included a combined 17 missed shots and 13 turnovers as the scoring completely halted.
“Coach does a great job of instilling that zero-zero mentality, and [the] next play matters, and defensively it’s always in the back of our head,” junior defender Ajax Zappitello said.
The result was an 11-9 Maryland advantage entering the fourth quarter.
Long finally got the scoring re-started on his second goal of the day — this one with a stick in his face — at the 10:56 mark of the quarter, giving the Terps a three-goal lead for the first time since the first half.
Koras notched a hat trick for the third straight game and fifth time this season as he scored on a bouncer through the legs of sophomore goalkeeper Jack Fracyon, putting Maryland up 13-9 with less than six minutes left.
“I think it starts with practicing, the scout guys giving us a great look, and just translating that to game day,” Koras said. “Just happens to be the ball going in the back of the net at times.”
Penn State scored a late goal but the result was all-but already sealed, as Maryland opened up its Big Ten slate with a win.