It was the Braden Erksa show for Maryland men’s lacrosse on Saturday.
The freshman shined in the Terps’ regular season finale, scoring four of Maryland’s 11 goals with a share of the Big Ten regular season title and the conference tournament’s top seed within reach.
But Johns Hopkins’ collective unit proved to be too much to overcome for the Erksa-heavy Terps, as the Blue Jays secured their first victory over Maryland since 2019, 12-11.
“Unfortunately I just feel we made a lot of mistakes tonight,” coach John Tillman said. “Just a lot of quick possessions in the first half and then getting the ball from defense to offense late in the fourth quarter, struggled a little bit there.”
Both of Maryland and Johns Hopkins’ meetings in 2022 were high-scoring affairs. The first matchup featured a combined 16 first-half goals and 29 total scores. The in-state rivals combined for 27 goals in the second matchup.
That wasn’t the case in the 2023 regular season meeting, when both offenses dealt with early struggles. Sloppy offensive play, paired with physicality defensively, set the scene for a tightly-played first half.
The opening quarter featured a combined nine turnovers and 19 missed shots. The second frame wasn’t much different with five combined turnovers in the first four minutes.
The quarter featured a total of 10 turnovers and 11 looks that didn’t find the back of the net. Both sides shot under 30 percent and Johns Hopkins suffered 10 first-half turnovers to Maryland’s nine in the first half.
“Felt like at times we played a little rushed,” Tillman said. “We kind of took the first opportunity, maybe not the best opportunity … felt like maybe we forced some things that just weren’t there.”
But both sides came out of the halftime break blazing.
Matt Collison and Jacob Angelus struck within the first two minutes of the second half, putting Johns Hopkins up 6-5 for its third lead of the game. Erksa and Nick Redd quickly responded for the Terps, continuing the game’s back-and-forth nature.
Both offenses found their footing after a first half dominated by defense. There were more combined goals in the third quarter alone than the first two.
Maryland and Johns Hopkins combined for a 55 percent shot rate in the third period, with three more players — Jonathan Peshko and Russell Melendez for the Blue Jays, and Daniel Maltz for the Terps — finding the back of the net.
Additional scores from Erksa, whose four scores marked a career-high, and Collison in the third frame set up Johns Hopkins with a 10-9 advantage entering the fourth quarter. Maltz struck again in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, producing the game’s 11th tie.
The high intensity from both sides remained, with the next goal not coming for another five minutes when Angelus notched his first hat trick of the season to put the Blue Jays back in front.
Melendez sent the Johns Hopkins bench in a frenzy at the 3:51 mark when he danced around a Maryland defender behind the cage before converting on a diving look in front of the crease.
Maryland scored one more with under a minute remaining, but never recovered after suffering its first two-goal deficit of the evening.
The ensuing face-off went Maryland’s way, setting Tillman up with the opportunity to call timeout and sort out his offense down the stretch. But Zach Whittier’s pass to Erksa with 19 seconds left sailed high out-of-bounds.
The Terps never got the ball back, as they watched the Blue Jays run out the clock and run onto the field when the clock dwindled to zero.
“We were really focused, but we just have to prepare better and be more poised, and hopefully the outcome comes out a different way if we see them again,” long-stick midfielder John Geppert said.