No. 7 Maryland men’s lacrosse endured its worst regular season since 2012. A big reason for its four losses was its offensive inconsistency and inefficiency, as the Terps don’t have a lethal weapon they’ve had in years past to take over a game.
Instead, they’ve relied on a collective for their scoring. Six Terps entered the weekend with double-digit goals on the season. Kyle Long trailed slightly with nine.
But in an elimination game Saturday in the Big Ten quarterfinals against Rutgers, Maryland’s trio of starting attackers carried the team to victory, with involvement in all 14 of its goals.
“We’re gonna need those guys, those guys have done a great job,” coach John Tillman said.
Daniel Maltz was a consistent offensive threat against the Scarlet Knights. The Terps’ lone true senior attacker scored in each of the first three quarters, leading an excellent push from his offense. Maltz also showcased his ability as a feeder, dishing out an Owen Murphy goal as he found the cutting junior from behind the cage for an easy look late in the third frame.
Maltz’s shot rate in the Terps’ four losses this season is 33 percent. It’s roughly 40 percent in the team’s nine wins.
Daniel Kelly, Maryland’s goal-leader who’s found the back of the net in every game this season, continued that streak against Rutgers. Kelly opened the scoring less than three minutes in and converted two more times in the first half for his fourth hat trick of the campaign.
The junior added another goal to start the fourth quarter, finishing with a club-high four goals Saturday night.
Like Maltz, Kelly’s efficiency correlates with wins and losses. He has shot 28 percent in losses compared to 32 percent in victories.
While Maltz and Kelly shined with their scoring, Braden Erksa dominated as a feeder Saturday. Rutgers’ defense had no answers for the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, who assisted on six of Maryland’s 14 goals.
He picked apart the defense — especially when he rifled a pass between a pair of Scarlet Knights to a cutting Maltz for a score early in the second frame — to find any opportunities for his offense.
“I’m kind of just looking for someone to be wide open,” Erksa said. “I’m not trying to thread the needle or anything. I’m just trying to look for the best look and if I don’t have anything I’ll just throw it in the corner and get back in the ride.”
Erksa’s six assists during the Rutgers game were a career highand tied for the most among all Big Ten players in any contest this season. He is averaging the sixth-most assists per game among conference players, and has averaged at least three assists per game in the last three games.
“Braden’s an awesome player, but an even better teammate,” graduate defender Brett Makar said. “The way he carries himself you wouldn’t even be able to tell he’s a freshman … at this time of year, he’s starting to play his best lacrosse so it’s been really impressive but no surprise just considering how hard he works and the way he goes about his business.”
Maltz, Kelly and Erksa — Maryland’s big three — dominated against Rutgers. They helped the Terps finish with their second highest shot percentage and second highest shot-on-goal percentage of any outing this season.
The trio led the Terps in their first postseason victory. As Maryland advances further, the more the team will lean on them even more.