No. 4 Maryland men’s lacrosse entered the final minute of the first quarter against No. 18 Ohio State Friday tied at two, after the sides traded two-goal spurts.
The Buckeyes offense then went to work. They scored five unanswered goals from the eight-second mark of the first frame to the 5:36 mark of the second, taking over the outing as they led 7-2. The run put Maryland at a first-half deficit of at least four goals for the second straight game.
“Give them credit, I felt like our heads were spinning at times,” coach John Tillman said. “I thought they did a really good job of just breaking us down and finishing on opportunities.”
Maryland trailed 9-5 at halftime, needing a second half surge to avoid being upset in consecutive weeks. No. 15 Michigan led the Terps 7-6 at halftime two weekends ago and scored the first three goals of the third quarter. The Terps never recovered.
[Poor second half play doomed Maryland men’s lacrosse against Michigan]
That wasn’t the case against the Buckeyes.
Maryland junior defender Ajax Zappitello scooped up a ground ball early in the third quarter and scored himself 10 seconds later, firing a shot into the top of the net to start second half scoring.
Zappitello’s score energized the Terps, opening a three-goal third quarter from the Terps. Maryland outscored Ohio State by one in the frame to enter the fourth period down 11-8.
Senior Luke Wierman excelled in the third quarter at the face-off spot, winning all six to help jumpstart the Terps’ offense.
“[Wierman] did a really good job of getting us the ball back, which was key for us to get rid of [Ohio State],” Tillman said.
After the Buckeyes won the fourth quarter’s opening face-off, Wierman won the next two. He keyed the Terps’ efforts to force overtime.
Wierman also won the overtime face-off, and freshman attacker Braden Erksa closed the Terps’ victory out with his 12th goal of the season.
[No. 5 Maryland men’s lacrosse comes back to defeat No. 19 Ohio State in overtime, 12-11]
Maryland’s post-halftime turnaround could not have happened without its star face-off specialist. Wierman won nine of 10 face-offs in the second half and overtime, an area he has excelled at all season. His 63.1 face-off win percentage is tied for fifth best among all Division I players, and his 73.1 face-off win percentage against the Buckeyes was his best since Feb. 18.
Because of how inefficient the Maryland offense has looked throughout the season — its offensive efficiency (goals/possession) of 28.3 percent ranks 36 out of 75 Division I schools — the Terps have had to rely upon Wierman to provide them with as many offensive possessions as possible due to their struggles to convert on such opportunities.
Maryland finished its win over Ohio State with a 31.6 shot percentage, just the third time since Feb. 18 the Terps have shot 30 percent or better in an outing.
It wasn’t pretty — and they endured their fair share of ups and downs throughout the 61 minutes of action — but the Terps got the job done against a quality conference foe.
“Lots to improve upon but just felt like we played more like Maryland today, and regardless of the outcome just felt we played harder and just a lot grittier,” Tillman said.