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Terps slow down Albany’s offense for 10-7 win

Kyle Bernlohr made six saves in the second half to slow down Albany's fifth-ranked offense.

Kyle Bernlohr made six saves in the second half to slow down Albany’s fifth-ranked offense.

Special Contribution to So Much Sports Baltimore
By: Phillip Suitts

With a consensus preseason first-team All-American in goal and two other returning starters at the back, the Maryland men’s lacrosse team has leaned on its defense early this season. In the Terps’ first five games of the season, they didn’t allow more than 10 goals in a game. They entered Wednesday tied for 12th in the country in scoring defense.

All that success came with a caveat, though. Senior goalkeeper Kyle Bernlohr and his defensive companions hadn’t faced a top-5 offense. The Terps’ defense had fared well against offenses with individual stars, such as Yale and Notre Dame, but Wednesday they faced an Albany team fifth in the nation with 13.8 goals per game.

The Terps passed that defensive test with flying colors. Despite spending much of the third quarter on the defensive end, No. 6 Maryland withstood a comeback from No. 10 Albany in a 10-7 win at Maryland Stadium and captured their first victory over a ranked opponent this season. Bernlohr made seven saves, six in the second half, and defender Matt Dunn marshalled a defense that held Albany to a season-low 23 shots. Terps attacker Matt Rambo and midfielder Bryan Cole led a balanced offense with three points each.

But the defense keyed the Terps’ wire-to-wire victory Wednesday.

“We played our system,” coach John Tillman said. “It wasn’t really anything crazy. Coach [Kevin] Conry does a great job with the D. It’s more everybody being on the same page.”

The Terps entered halftime up 7-3 but they didn’t score for the entire third quarter and had just four shots in the period. With Albany dominating – the Great Danes had 11 shots in the quarter – Bernlohr and the defense allowed three goals. But Maryland ended the quarter still ahead by one, 7-6. It could have been worse, Tillman said.

“We played defense almost the whole third quarter,” Tillman said. “We felt like jeez with all the defense we played to still have the lead, that’s a positive.”

The Terps sealed the victory with three consecutive goals to start the fourth quarter. Rambo had the Terps’ final tally of the night on a running right-hander shot and finished with two goals and an assist. Rambo’s tally meant the Terps have scored 10 or more goals for the third consecutive game.

Early in the season, the Terps struggled to generate offense. In the second and third game of the season, the Terps tallied a combined nine goals and lost both contests. But the Terps poured in 11 first-half goals Saturday against Princeton.

The offense built off that momentum Wednesday. With Maryland dominating in the face-off circle – they won six of the seven face-offs in the first quarter – they scored the game’s first two goals and led 4-2 after the first quarter. Face-off specialist Austin Henningsen’s success in the circle meant the Terps were constantly on attack.

“The first quarter we want to set the tempo,” Cole said. “We were able to set the pace, share the ball, play hard and just play unselfish, which worked out in our favor tonight.”

While Albany drew within one on multiple occasions, the Terps ended the half on a 4-1 run. Behind Henningsen and a defense that limited Albany to eight shots in the first half the Terps entered halftime up four.

While Terps’ offense cooled off, the defense withstood the third-quarter scoring drought.

“It was a huge change of pace from the first quarter,” Bernlohr said. “All of a sudden it came in a flurry. There was a three-minute possession. It felt like it was a 15-minute possession. Guys were tired. We got some stops.”

While the Great Danes entered averaging nearly two more shots per game than the Terps, Maryland had a 42-23 shot advantage Wednesday. The Terps’ dominance in the face-off circle – they went 16-for-20 – was aided by a 29-17 advantage on ground balls.

The Terps did a great job keeping the ball out of Albany’s hands. When the Great Danes did have the ball, the Terps limited their top offensive weapons. Attacker Connor Fields entered with a team-high 17 points but had just two assists. Justin Reh had 12 points in Albany’s first four games but totaled one point Wednesday. Seth Oakes was Albany’s offensive star Wednesday with three goals, but it wasn’t enough.

With Dunn back – he missed the first two games of the season due to injury – the Terps were organized on the defensive end. Dunn is an Inside Lacrosse preseason second team All-American and one of three returning starters on defense (including Bernlohr). It took them some time for Dunn and the defense to adjust to Albany’s scheme during practice this week, but that work paid off Wednesday.

“It took us three days to get everybody where they needed to be,” Tillman said. “We still made a few mistakes.”

The Terps have 10 days off before they welcome No. 17 North Carolina to Maryland Stadium. They will use that extra time to rest and recover, Tillman said.

They will also savor this win. With such a long time between games, a loss would have been even harder to swallow.

“It would have been a very bad taste in our mouths to have a loss with a long break heading into North Carolina,” Bernlohr said. “The last two to three weeks we’ve been non-stop with games and travel and everything. Just wanted to finish off with a win and kind of rejuvenate ourselves.”

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