Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Johns Hopkins offensive firepower proves to be too much for No. 2 Maryland to overcome in regular season finale

The greatest rivalry in college lacrosse- No. 2 Maryland and Johns Hopkins, is always a tightly contested battle every season. In tonight’s chapter, Johns Hopkins took the 16-11 victory led by the attack duo of Cole Williams and Joey Epstein.

The duo combined for 10 points and were the catalysts for the Blue Jays offense throughout. Ultimately, Johns Hopkins outshot Maryland 43-21 firing consistent shots on Danny Dolan and finding creases in the Maryland defense. Despite struggling on offense for much of the game, Maryland came out firing on all cylinders to start the game. While having a strong game on offense, the Hopkins defense was strong as well with quick slides and great communication for the final three quarters.

“Defensively we stopped being selfish, that has been our achilles heel all year long,” Johns Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala said. “We did a better job of playing team defense, offensively we did a better job of sharing the ball.”

Sophomore midfielder Bubba Fairman scored his first of a team-high five goals a minute and a half into the game, a lefty sidearm shot in the back of the net. Shortly after, junior attackmen Jared Bernhardt used a speed dodge wrapping around the cage and firing the low-angle shot into the back of the net to give Maryland the early 2-0 lead.

However, freshman attackmen Joey Epstein found his scoring touch using his elite speed and quick footwork behind the net wrapping around the cage and firing the lefty shot past Danny Dolan. Maryland’s offensive success continued as the first quarter progressed, with the Terps scoring three consecutive goals extending their lead to 5-1. On the left side of the field about 12 yards from the net, Fairman caught a skip pass from sophomore Logan Wisnauskas and buried the low to high shot top shelf.

“I think all the guys on offense really put me in a good spot to succeed,” Fairman said. “All of those guys are phenomenal players and they’re drawing so much attention that sometimes they just forget about a guy on the backside.”

Bernhardt scored his second goal of the game 2:54 later, finding an opening in the middle of the field and rocketing the shot into the top corner of the net. To close out the run, sophomore midfielder Roman Puglise caught a pass in stride and buried a low shot in transition.

“I thought the first ten minutes there we had good possessions and good flow,” head coach John Tillman said.

After Maryland had taken a 5-1 lead, Johns Hopkins found its groove once again scoring three consecutive goals. Kyle Marr, Cole Williams and Forry Smith each scored a goal with great movement on offense making the Maryland defense pay for not rotating fast enough.

Williams’ goal was his first of three on the day, off a beautiful feed from Epstein at X. To halt some of Hopkins momentum, Wisnauskas scored on a righty jump shot from a very tough angle down the alley. Wisnauskas placed the shot low and away past the far hip of Ryan Darby, the only place he could.

Despite trailing by two goals, Johns Hopkins did not look back scoring five consecutive goals to close out the quarter taking a 9-6 lead into halftime. During the run, the Hopkins attackers and midfielders did a great job of sharing the ball making the Maryland defense pay for not communicating well. On defense, Hopkins forced Maryland into some quick decisions and played strong team defense.

“I felt like we put our defense in a really tough spot at times, especially after the first quarter,” Tillman said. “We just put a lot of pressure on [our defense] after missing ground balls and having some short possessions.”

Less than a minute into the second half, Fairman completed his hat-trick, but Hopkins once again orchestrated a 3-0 run. Epstein was one again the focal point of the Hopkins offense, finding his teammates and scoring a goal using his elite speed from behind the net.

Taking the 12-7 lead, Hopkins seemed in firm control but Maryland continued to battle back. Fairman and Russell Masci scored back-to-back goals with less than two minutes in third quarter cutting the deficit to 12-9.

Early in the fourth quarter, Williams and his long 6-foot-5 frame continued to be tough for Maryland. He used his size and frame to wrap around the defender and create separation to extend the Hopkins lead to four once again. Fairman would score his fifth and final goal of the game cutting the deficit to 13-10, but Maryland couldn’t score missing several opportunities including hitting the post.

Epstein put a dagger in the hopes of a Maryland comeback with 4:50 remaining, scoring with one second remaining on the shot clock during a delayed penalty. Building off the energy of Epstein’s goal, Hopkins scored two more putting Maryland in their largest deficit of the game 16-10, before Anthony Demaio scored the final goal of the game.

Maryland will not have to wait long for revenge, as they will take on Johns Hopkins once again on Thursday night in Piscataway in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.