When the Terps met Cornell in the postseason in 2013, a similarly gifted offensive talent for the Big Red proved to be Maryland’s downfall.
Back then, Rob Pannell was chasing glory in his final season, both for the all-time points record (then held by Duke’s Matt Danowski) and a shot at championship weekend. Pannell finished with 102 points before losing in the semifinals. Still, his seven points (four goals, three assists) were enough to propel the Big Red past Maryland in a one-sided 16-8 first round win.
This year, sophomore attackman Jeff Teat has been equally sensational, putting up 97 points (37 goals, 60 assists) through 17 games to earn Inside Lacrosse First Team All-American honors. His production this season has helped turn around a program that won just five games a year ago.
Teat and company squeezed past the eighth-seed Syracuse, 11-10 in the first round.
“A lot of similarities, both are terrific players that have made the guys around them better,” head coach John Tillman said. “Rob had such great anticipation of where guys were going to be and throw guys open and I feel like Jeff does the same thing. [Teat] just has this uncanny knack of all he needs is a little space and he’ll throw to where a guy is cutting to.”
In that 2013 matchup, Tillman rotated current defensive coordinator Jesse Bernhardt and fellow Chesapeake Bayhawk defenseman Goran Murray to play Pannell straight up, but Pannell’s flair was too much for the Terrapins. Defenders across the nation are having similar problems playing against Teat.
“When you watch film, the guy hasn’t even cut yet and isn’t even open yet, and before [Teat] just releases the ball and before you know it that guy cuts to that spot, so it’s something defensively you’ve got to be aware of,” Tillman said.
In Cornell’s (13-4, 4-2) first round win, Syracuse limited Teat’s touches by shutting him off with a long pole defenseman, limiting to a solitary assist. Teams have shut him off since the Ivy League Tournament, and he’s scored no more than three points. When they don’t, like when Yale played him straight up in the final, he can produce six points (one goal, five assists) just like that.
For Tillman, the decision to shut him off won’t be an easy one to make.
“I think there’s always that concern that you’ve been doing something all year, that’s what the kids know and believe in,” Tillman said. “How much can you tweak what you do, where it almost makes your kids a little bit slower, they’re processing and not just reacting and playing fast to try to take away something that they do really well.”
While shutting off Teat may be effective, the ninth-seeded Big Red come into the matchup with the second-highest producing midfield group in the nation with 161 total points. Junior midfielder Jake McCulloch earned All-American Honorable Mention honors thanks to a balanced 42 points (27 goals, 15 assists) and senior midfielder Jordan Dowiak has been a sharpshooter from the outside with 36 goals.
Teat’s former high school teammate at The Hill Academy, Clarke Pettersen is another dangerous Canadian finisher with 42 goals.
Maryland (13-3, 4-1), led by senior midfielder Connor Kelly, boasts the top midfield. Kelly scored four goals in the first round win over Robert Morris to get him to 77 points overall.
Kelly is one of three seniors to have played in all 13 of the team’s NCAA Tournament games during his four years in College Park, along with two-way midfielder Adam DiMillo and close defenseman Bryce Young. With one more victory, this senior class will become the winningest in program history.
A class above them, redshirt seniors Dan Morris and Tim Rotanz add even more experience to the squad. The two were on the team that last saw Cornell in the postseason in 2014, winning 8-7 to advance to Memorial Day weekend.
“I don’t really remember much besides the game-winning goal with Henry West dodging down and feeding [Mike] Chanenchuk on the backside in the last two seconds,” Rotanz said. “Other than that, they kind of dominated us for most of that game.”
Another player in that game on the other side was Cornell’s standout goalie Christian Knight, who ranks 10th in saves per game. Knight ranks third all-time for career saves with 593, and has had a few close to 20-save performances late in the season.
Knight and Maryland redshirt freshman attackman Logan Wisnauskas both attended Boys’ Latin, and the Terps will need Wisnauskas’ sharp shooting Sunday.
“Logan has a really high IQ,” Tillman said. “He gets himself in really good spots and his really unselfish.”
Wisnauskas has 31 goals on the season in his debut campaign, but hasn’t scored since the Big Ten Tournament semifinals against Rutgers.
He’ll need to break that duck at noon on Sunday in Annapolis as the top-seeded Terps look to advance to their fifth straight championship weekend in Navy Stadium against Cornell.
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