Braden Erksa surveyed the defense from behind the cage. He stood idle for nearly 20 seconds, waiting for a teammate to find separation. Nobody could.
No. 4 Maryland’s offense was stagnant and Erksa decided he would take it upon himself to score. He wrapped around the right side of the goal while the congestion of Terps and Greyhounds stood a few yards away from him.
Erksa turned his hip, leaped and fired a bounce shot that missed poorly. The possession was wasted as the unit failed to find a flow — a continued issue for Maryland men’s lacrosse.
“I feel like we’ve been reckless and kind of forcing things,” coach John Tillman said. “If you don’t have it, just don’t turn it into all or nothing. Move it to the next guy and let’s keep putting pressure on their guys.”
Last season marked the Terps’ worst campaign in a decade, with their offensive struggles to blame. Their shooting percentage and efficiency marked the program’s worst in recent seasons.
Maryland’s offensive troubles have remained through two games this season despite its perfect start. The unit followed a 33 percent shooting performance in the season-opener with a 23 percent outing in its second game.
One of the highlights of the attack last year was Erksa, whose excellent campaign garnered him Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. He started this season with a hat trick against Richmond but scored just one goal on 10 attempts against No. 12 Loyola on Saturday.
The score showcased Erksa’s strong shot power but came unguarded off a transition feed — the sophomore has struggled at times in a set offense.
Eric Malever played a key role as a starter in the program’s undefeated national championship in 2022. The Terps were without Malever last year as he missed the entire season with leg injuries, limiting the offense’s capabilities. The former five-star recruit is healthy but has returned to a shaky start in 2024, connecting on just two of 11 shots through two games.
“We’re just gonna have to keep working, keep shooting our shots,” Malever said. “Shots are gonna fall. We’ll keep getting great game plans by our coaches and we’re gonna keep getting better.”
Erksa and Malever are two of three Terps to total at least 10 shots through two contests. Daniel Maltz, fresh off a two-goal outing against Loyola, has tallied 14 attempts. All three players have shot below 30 percent this season.
Maryland’s troubles on offense go beyond its leading trio. Of every player to record at least two shots so far, the lone Terp shooting more than 35 percent is Ryan Siracusa. The team’s 27.7 overall shooting percentage ranks No. 36 in the country, and its 27.1 percent offensive efficiency ranks No. 33.
Maryland’s offense hit lulls against both Richmond and Loyola, going scoreless for spans of at least eight minutes three times in each game.
“Our mindset is 0-0 no matter what,” Malever said. “Having that next-play mentality is really big for us.”
The Terps’ offense has struggled when they go deep into the shot clock. They’ve needed to rely on early looks from unlikely places to find sparks, like Ajax Zappitello’s transition score against Richmond and Colin Burlace’s pole goal just five seconds into the shot clock against Loyola.
“It’s so hard to score six-on-six, so if you have poles that can handle the ball … those are juice goals,” Tillman said.
Maryland is perfect through two games this season, but its offense hasn’t found much rhythm, especially in set pieces. The unit’s inefficiency held the Terps back last year — they’ll need more consistency as the campaign goes on.