Even in John Tillman’s wildest dreams, he couldn’t have imagined a better start to Saturday night’s game against No. 8 Johns Hopkins. His Terps jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first half before ultimately taking down the Blue Jays 12-5 at Maryland Stadium.
With No. 4 Ohio State’s overtime loss at No. 13 Rutgers, Maryland was able to win the Big Ten regular season title outright and clinch the number 1 seed in next week’s Big Ten tournament.
This is Maryland’s fifth straight regular season conference title, having won all three years since joining the Big Ten in 2014.
At the start of the day, Matt Rambo needed six points to break Bob Boniello’s record of 231 career points to become Maryland’s all-time leader. By halftime he had broken the record, with two goals and four assists in just 18 minutes of game time.
Rambo ended the day with a career-high seven points on three goals and four assists.
“I never really thought this day would come,” Rambo said. “It’s special to me but I have to thank all the teammates that I’ve played with over the past four years and my coaches.”
The Terps looked nearly perfect in the first quarter, scoring all six goals in the quarter. Junior midfielder Connor Kelly scored three of the game’s first four goals while senior attackman Matt Rambo had three assists in the first quarter.
In the opening period, Maryland scored on six of their eight shots, including four goals coming on their first four shots.
Maryland opened up the second quarter with two more goals, one from Kelly and one from Rambo, to take an 8-0 lead. Johns Hopkins finally got on the board after 21 scoreless minutes with a goal from Cole Williams.
One major problem for the Blue Jays in the first half was not being able to back up their shots. Three times in the first half they failed to back up a shot behind the goal and Maryland gained possession, ultimately leading to two of Maryland’s nine goals in the half.
“You can’t beat a team like this doing that,” Johns Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala said. “It was 4-3 in the second half, but you can’t spot a team an eight-goal lead.”
Tim Rotanz would end the half with a buzzer-beating goal to give Maryland a 9-1 lead heading into halftime. A Colin Heacock snipe to start the third quarter made it 10-1 and that was pretty much the nail in the coffin for the Blue Jays.
“We felt like we haven’t played our best game yet,” Tillman said. “I do think this our best effort top to bottom with the energy we had tonight.”
A lot of that energy came from Saturday’s crowd, announced to be 14,353, which is the most people to attend a Maryland regular season lacrosse game since 1989.
“We got a lot of energy from them,” Tillman said. “That’s as good as it gets and they were really helpful.”
Midfielder Adam DiMillo was also able to score his second goal of the season, showing how balanced Maryland has been all season; a player who doesn’t see lots of playing time is able to score a goal in the biggest game of the season.
The Blue Jays were able to outscore Maryland in the second half, 4-3, but it was too little, too late for Johns Hopkins as they couldn’t pull themselves out of the eight-goal hole they dug for themselves in the first half.
Colin Heacock started against Johns Hopkins after missing the Terps’ last game against Ohio State and his presence was huge for the Terps’ offense on Saturday. Heacock had three goals and one assist in his return to the field.
Tillman thought Heacock could have played last week against Ohio State, but he didn’t want to rush him back and watch him get hurt again in the postseason. Tillman saw that exact scenario play out two years ago to his faceoff specialist Charlie Raffa.
Another key to the Terps’ victory was Dan Morris’ play in goal. Morris developed a rhythm early on, saving four of the Blue Jays’ shots. He also stuffed Johns Hopkins on multiple occasions, hyping up the bench and the electric crowd Saturday night at Maryland Stadium. Morris ended the night with nine saves.
“He just gave us a lot of energy tonight and this week,” defenseman Tim Muller said. “He’s been trying to be more vocal and I think he really did that today, helping the defense sliding and recovering.”
After falling behind 8-0 in the second quarter, Pietramala decided to switch out his goalie, but again, it was too little, too late for the Blue Jays.
Gerald Logan came in to replace Brock Turnbaugh and was a big improvement. Logan made nine saves during his time on the field while Turnbaugh allowed eight goals and did not record a save.
Johns Hopkins scored a season-low five goals due to a lack of offense coming from their starters. Joel Tinney was the first starting Blue Jay to score and that came 9:54 left in the fourth quarter. It is hard to win without production from your best players and that showed in Maryland’s rout of Johns Hopkins.
Before postseason play begins next week, Tillman noted his team has to get better at facing off.
“This is the fourth straight game for us we were minus at the faceoff and we buffer that with 12 extra ground balls somewhere else,” Tillman said, “but we just have to keep working at that. We’re not going to go where we want to go if we don’t improve at that.”
Maryland now has a few days to rest and prepare for the gauntlet that will be the Big Ten tournament in Columbus, Ohio. The Terps will play the No. 4 seed Penn State Thursday night. Maryland defeated the Nittany Lions 15-11 in College Park earlier this season.
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