Maryland men’s lacrosse has deployed a consistent starting midfield — Kyle Long, Jack Brennan and Jack Koras — in all but one game this season. While the three started the year steady, they have struggled in recent weeks.
The trio has combined for just two goals in Maryland’s past two outings — less than nine percent of the team’s scoring against No. 15 Michigan and No. 18 Ohio State.
Against the Buckeyes, they missed all 11 of their shots. Coach John Tillman acknowledged after the game that the starters weren’t having “as good a night as they typically do.”
Luckily for Tillman, his bench stepped up.
Eric Spanos, Zach Whittier, Ryan Siracusa and Owen Murphy make up the Terps’ second unit and combined for six goals. The quartet was efficient, converting on 66 percent of its shots.
[Maryland men’s lacrosse’s strong second half carried it to Ohio State victory]
Maryland trailed by five at one point in the second quarter to Ohio State before Murphy, Siracusa and Whittier scored three goals to trim the deficit. The Maryland bench kept it alive while in a frame where its starters didn’t score.
The starters woke up in the second half as the Terps came from behind to defeat the Buckeyes, but the win would not have been possible without the performances of the second line.
“I think those guys are getting more confident,” Tillman said. “Guys playing significant roles for really the first time, so with that … got to get your feet wet and get some experience.”
Murphy started the first two games of the season at attack and the Terps’ Feb. 25 outing against Princeton at midfield. He has since been relegated to the second line — where he’s maintained his goal output while improving his efficiency. His shooting percentage increased by slightly over eight percent since the move.
The other bench players have also excelled.
[No. 5 Maryland men’s lacrosse comes back to defeat No. 19 Ohio State in overtime, 12-11]
Spanos’ two scores against the Buckeyes gave him five in the last four games. He’s shot 55 percent since Maryland’s victory over No. 2 Virginia just under a month ago.
Whittier set a new career high in goals after capitalizing on both of his looks versus Ohio State.
Siracusa — despite being the oldest of the bunch — has appeared in the fewest games. He played in just half of Maryland’s first eight outings this season and entered the Buckeyes game with just two goals on six shots.
But he performed admirably against Ohio State, notching his third goal and his first assist of the season.
“He had not played a lot over the last five games … but he kept working and when he got his opportunity he made the most of it,” Tillman said. “Just another guy that we can go back to down the stretch.”
The Terps’ regular season nears its close with just two games left before the start of postseason play. If current performances continue, Tillman’s squad may enter the upcoming high-leverage games with a bench that can overcome any subpar performance from its starters.