Maryland men’s lacrosse’s 2023 season has been filled with ups and downs.
It got off to a blazing start in its season opener, excelling on both sides of the SECU Stadium field in a 15-4 thrashing of Richmond; the Terps finished with their best offensive shooting percentage of the season, while also holding the Spiders to a sub-10 percent conversion rate.
But the Terps significantly struggled the following week, falling to then-unranked Loyola, 12-7. The loss featured their worst offensive performance of the season with shooting and efficiency rates of less than 17 percent. They also allowed their highest shooting and efficiency rates of the season on the other end.
Maryland has bounced back since the Loyola game, going 5-1 entering Saturday’s matchup against Michigan, with four of those victories coming against ranked opponents.
Still, the Terps have rarely put together a consistent four quarters of dominant lacrosse — something they did quite often in their undefeated national championship campaign a season ago.
“Coaching in college, you’re trying to put together that good 60 minutes, that complete game,” coach John Tillman said.
[Maryland men’s lacrosse surged to Penn State victory behind strong second half defense]
A complete game has been a rare feat for the Terps this season; when their offense finds a groove, their defense seems to struggle, and vice versa. They have won quarters by three or more goals just six times this season through eight games compared to 12 times in the opening eight games of last season.
Maryland has won 53 percent of its regulation quarters, while the two other top-three ranked teams in the nation — No. 1 Virginia and No. 3 Notre Dame — have both won just more than 71 percent of its regulation periods.
The Terps split the eight regulation frames in their matchups against the Cavaliers and the Fighting Irish earlier this season, and capitalized on just 26 percent of their shots in those quarters.
“At the end of the day, I think we could’ve executed a little bit better,” Tillman said after the triple overtime loss to Notre Dame.
After an offensive heavy first half in the Terps’ most recent outing against No. 11 Penn State that featured 18 combined goals, the second half was a complete flip of the switch, featuring only five combined scores.
Tillman felt a multitude of factors were the cause of the completely different halves, most notably poor decision making, poor shot selection and an increased amount of turnovers. Less than half of Maryland’s second half shots were on-goal and 10 of its 15 turnovers came after the break.
“It was like two different games,” Tillman said.
[No. 2 Maryland men’s lacrosse defeats No. 10 Penn State in Big Ten opener, 13-10]
Even on a game-by-game basis, individual Terps have struggled to find consistency.
Junior midfielder Jack Koras demonstrates that best as he’s been held scoreless in three games despite holding a share of the team-lead in goals with 16. He’s finished with a hat trick or better in each of the other five contests.
The other three Terps with double-digit goals this season — junior attackers Daniel Kelly and Owen Murphy and senior attacker Daniel Maltz — have all battled inconsistencies as well. Kelly and Maltz have both had four one or zero-goal outings, while Murphy has had five.
On the defensive end, veteran leaders Brett Makar and Ajax Zappitello have both had five games of either one or zero caused turnovers, as they too haven’t starred at the same level across every week this season.
The lack of a complete 60 minutes — in addition to a lack of consistency on a week-by-week basis — are problems that have plagued Maryland all-season long, ones that need to be addressed soon with the Terps entering the final month of the regular season.
“You’ve got to maximize every opportunity you have and capitalize on those,” Tillman said. “If not, it’s going to be a long day for us.”