BALTIMORE — Maryland men’s lacrosse and Michigan took part in a closely-contested opening quarter. But the Wolverines absolutely took over the outing from that point on, outscoring the Terps by a combined five goals during the second and third quarters and entering the fourth frame with a commanding seven-goal lead.
Michigan held firm control over all facets of the game, and all it needed to do over the final frame was to continue its domination.
A seemingly empty possession three minutes into the quarter resulted in a Michael Boehm strike with the shot clock winding down. The Wolverines shouted in celebration, while a multitude of Terps put their heads down in disbelief.
No. 4-seed Michigan (9-6) played like the clear better unit in the Big Ten tournament championship, dismantling No. 3-seed Maryland (10-5) at Homewood Field on Saturday, 14-5.
The defeat marked just the second time that the Terps failed to secure either a conference regular season or tournament title since they joined the Big Ten prior to the 2015 season and was the program’s largest loss since 2006.
The intensity was high early on in the biggest game of the season for both sides. The schools combined for five turnovers over the first eight minutes, as each offense struggled to get into the interior of the respective defense.
A lot of Maryland’s early possessions resulted in turnovers or bad shots as the Terps seemed to settle for most of their looks.
“We had the opportunity to get off to a good start, get into a flow, and I felt like we never really did,” coach John Tillman said.
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The few times the Terps waited for the right shot resulted in scores.
Big Ten Freshman of the Year Braden Erksa got Maryland’s scoring started as he wrapped around the back of the cage before firing a shot into the back of the net. Eric Spanos joined Erksa with a pair of goals off the bench in the opening frame, providing Tillman with firepower from his second line offense.
Spanos continued his hot start in the opening minutes of the second quarter. The sophomore registered his second career hat trick at the 11:37 mark, keeping the Terps within two as their defense struggled to contain Michigan’s offense following the halfway point of the first period.
But Maryland’s offense beyond Erksa and Spanos was virtually nonexistent. The rest of the Terps combined for 13 missed shots in the first half; none of their looks found the back of the net.
Erksa opened the second-half scoring less than three minutes in, hoping to jumpstart his offense.
That didn’t happen, as Maryland went scoreless over the remainder of the game. The Terps missed their final 20 shots and couldn’t break through Michigan’s relentless defense. It consistently hounded the Terps’ offense, forcing side-to-side passes and poor shots.
“I think what’s hard with this group is we’re just young … we just don’t really have that alpha male down there,” Tillman said.
The Wolverines were clicking on all cylinders offensively once they got past the sluggish start to the game. A trio of upperclassmen — Jake Bonomi, Bryce Clay and Peter Thompson — accounted for Michigan’s final four goals of the opening quarter.
[Maryland men’s lacrosse’s trio of star attackers pushed it to a Big Ten quarterfinal win]
Clay showed no signs of slowing down in the second frame as he notched his second hat trick of the season just 31 seconds into the period. Boehm then scored twice in a four-second span only a few moments later — adding onto his earlier first-quarter goal — giving the All-Big Ten first team member his eighth hat trick of the year. He struck again at the 1:29 mark of the second frame to give Michigan its 10th goal of the day.
The entire Michigan offense provided fits for Brian Ruppel in the cage for the Terps. The freshman entered the outing with a top-30 save percentage among all Division I goalkeepers, but endured his worst half of the season in the first 30 minutes. Ruppel saved just three of 13 looks against him — a 23 percent rate — as the Wolverines constantly tormented him.
Luke Wierman’s struggles at the center circle exacerbated the Terps’ struggles in the second quarter and paved the way for Michigan’s four-score advantage in the frame. The All-Big Ten first team honoree won just one of the six face-offs in the period, allowing the Wolverines to enter halftime with a six-goal lead.
Wierman lost the two face-offs of the third frame, providing Michigan the opportunity to increase its lead to seven thanks to a pair of Josh Zawada goals.
Michigan added a pair of scores in the fourth quarter, resulting in a dominant nine-goal victory and the Wolverines’ first Big Ten tournament championship in program history.