“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is a story about the deception in human nature.
No. 3 Maryland men’s lacrosse’s season has been filled with deceitfulness. Coach John Tillman knows this, labeling his squad’s 2023 campaign “Jekyll and Hyde lacrosse.”
The Terps looked like Jekyll early and never relented in their Sunday night victory over No. 11 Rutgers, something that hasn’t been the case in recent weeks.
Maryland started with a masterful opening quarter against the Scarlet Knights. It marked the first time this season the Terps led 4-0 after the first quarter. The dominant start featured scores from four different players. Each came off an assist as Maryland’s ball movement and unselfishness caused fits for the Rutgers defense.
“I liked our start, especially on the road in a really tough spot,” Tillman said.
Maryland got off to poor starts in its previous two games against No. 18 Michigan and Ohio State, with deficits one quarter into both games. The Terps’ offense shot under 35 percent in both of those periods. Against Rutgers, they shot 57 percent in the opening frame.
Maryland’s domination Sunday continued, shooting 19 percent better and scooping two more ground balls than Rutgers while winning 14 of 21 face-offs. It also had a brick wall defending its cage in the form of Brian Ruppel.
The freshman saved 60 percent of the Scarlet Knights’ looks against him in the contest following his worst two outings of the season against Michigan and Ohio State. Ruppel’s game marked his best save rate since his collegiate debut against Princeton.
“Rup was giving us some great saves, defensively I thought we were more on the same page then we have been in the past, and that’s all we can ask for,” defender Ajax Zappitello said. “We’re doing a great job of figuring each other out each week and growing as a unit.”
The Terps’ defense struggled the past two weeks, in contrast to their performance against Rutgers. The Wolverines and Buckeyes both shot more than 33 percent for the game — the highest Maryland has allowed since its loss to No. 1 Notre Dame.
Defensive breakdowns were becoming common for Maryland, sometimes letting the game “snowball a little bit,” defender Brett Makar said.
That changed in the second half against Ohio State. After that game, Rutgers shot roughly 20 percent against the Maryland defense and averaged more than three turnovers a quarter.
“Last week versus Ohio State we got off to a slow start … had to take a breath, step back, go into halftime, make some adjustments, which coach Tillman and coach [Jesse] Bernhardt both did a great job of doing,” Zappitello said.
In the six quarters and one overtime period the team has played in the past two weeks, Maryland has looked as complete as it has at any point this season.
“I thought we did a great job, we hammered home the point … 60 minutes of playing tough, playing like a Terp,” Zappitello said after the Rutgers win. “… It’s not gonna be perfect, it never is, and we just want to play a complete 60 minutes as we can, which I thought we did a way better job of than last week.”
The Terps’ last three games served as a microcosm of their Jekyll and Hyde season. They looked closer to Hyde in recent losses. Maryland then played more like Jekyll against Rutgers, the version it must discover more frequently with one regular season game to go.