Maryland men’s lacrosse began the 2024 campaign with a perfect record through four February games. The Terps’ hot start pushed them up to No. 3 in the Inside Lacrosse Media Poll rankings, entering a seismic clash in South Bend with then-No. 6 Notre Dame.

Maryland dropped that contest — its first loss of the season. The defeat started a poor stretch for the Terps, who’ve lost three of their last four and tumbled down to No. 12 in the latest rankings.

The Terps’ slip has coincided with diminished production in three distinct areas: clears, faceoffs and ground balls.

“All those things start adding up to more possessions [for our opponent] and fewer opportunities for us,” coach John Tillman said.

Maryland excelled in those areas early this year. The Terps averaged nine more ground balls secured and faceoffs won than their foes. They succeeded on 92 percent of their clear opportunities through four games.

[No. 7 Maryland men’s lacrosse loses second straight game, falls 12-11 to Michigan]

That dominance led Maryland to comfortable victories over Loyola and Princeton. The Terps beat Richmond and Syracuse in overtime, coming back from first-quarter deficits behind strong momentary spurts in all three facets.

Maryland’s offense, which ranks 39th among all Division I schools in average goals per game and 33rd in offensive efficiency, needed those added possessions to aid an average unit. The same was true for its defense, which ranks 30th in average goals allowed per game and 39th in defensive efficiency.

Maryland’s perfect start featured four of its five positive in-game possession totals.

But since the loss to the Irish, the Terps have allowed their opponents to secure more ground balls and win more faceoffs. Their clear rate has dropped by 12 percent.

Three of Maryland’s four-worst scoring outputs came amid its current stumble.

“It’s just a lot of possessions that you’re giving up,” Tillman said.

Logan McNaney, the 2022 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, has struggled in tune with the Terps’ issues in front of him. The goalkeeper has had four straight sub-50 percent save rate outings. He entered this season with just two career losses. He’s already got three this season.

[No. 5 Maryland men’s lacrosse can’t keep up with No. 3 Virginia in 14-10 loss]

McNaney looked like he’d returned to form in the first half of Maryland’s most recent loss to No. 14 Michigan. He saved seven of the 12 shots he faced. But after halftime, the graduate student saved just four of the Wolverines’ 11 shots on goal and ended with a 47.8 save percentage.

Against Michigan, Maryland scooped six fewer ground balls tied a season-high six failed clears and lost a season-worst 40.7 percent of its chances at the X. All-American faceoff specialist Luke Wierman ended with the third-lowest faceoff rate of his career among games with at least 10 chances.

All six failed clears resulted in turnovers. The final was the most dreadful, immediately resulting in Justin Tiernan’s game-winning goal. Tillman believed his team was sloppy at times.

“We got to do a better job on the turnovers,” Tillman said. “Decision making, the execution.”

Maryland faces No. 4 Penn State next on Sunday. If it can improve in those critical areas, the Terps could notch a critical win. But another disappointing performance would put Tillman’s team on a three-game losing streak — its first in over a decade.