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Terps roll over rival JHU to win Big Ten

Special Contribution to So Much Sports Baltimore
By: James Crabtree-Hannigan

After the No. 5 Maryland men’s lacrosse Big Ten-clinching 12-5 win over rival No. 8 Johns Hopkins on Saturday, Terps attackman Matt Rambo admitted he’d never imagined a day like Saturday happening.

First, Ohio State lost to Rutgers, pushing the Buckeyes out of Big Ten title contention and meaning the winner of Saturday’s rivalry matchup would be the sole winner of the Big Ten regular season.

Then, Maryland dominated the Blue Jays from start to finish, opening an 8-0 lead and cruising to the 12-5 finish. Along the way, Rambo collected seven points and became the all-time leader in career points at Maryland.

“I do think this is our best effort, top to bottom,” Maryland coach John Tillman said.

For the second consecutive game, the Terps jumped out to a wide early lead. Unlike last weekend’s loss to Ohio State, however, Maryland sustained its level of play throughout Saturday’s rivalry matchup.

“We got off to a great start, certainly,” Tillman said. “You go six of eight shooting in the first quarter [and] I thought [goalkeeper] Dan Morris was really seeing it early, so you kind of put those things together, it obviously allows us to get off to a fast start.”

Johns Hopkins, owners of the nation’s best man-up offense entering Saturday, drew an unnecessary roughness penalty early in the game and managed two shots during their minute-long advantage but the efforts were saved and off-target.

“It was huge,” Maryland defender Tim Muller said of Morris’ early saves. “He just gave us a lot of energy throughout the game.”

Shortly after Johns Hopkins squandered its extra-man opportunity, Maryland started its onslaught of goals.

Maryland midfielder Connor Kelly opened the scoring with eight minutes and 44 seconds left in the first quarter, beating Blue Jays goalkeeper Brock Turnbaugh with a low shot from the right side and then turning to the announced crowd of 14,353 and raising his hands into the air.

Terps attackman Colin Heacock, who didn’t play in Maryland’s loss to Ohio State last week due to an injured ankle, returned to the lineup Saturday night and extended Maryland’s lead to 2-0 a few minutes later.

The game’s early stages, however, belonged to Kelly.

The senior had a hat trick in the first quarter and added another early in the second period, pacing Maryland to an 8-0 lead.

“It was wide open for them to skip [pass] through right to 40,” Johns Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. “He had four in the first [half] because that’s what he does.”

“In the first quarter, we just got overwhelmed.”

Johns Hopkins’ defense showed signs of frustration as the Terps grew their lead, and defender Trevor Koelsch pushing Rambo to the ground after he’d scored the team’s fifth goal of the game — and third in the final three minutes of the first quarter — with 13 seconds left in the quarter.

A flag had already been thrown earlier on the play, so Maryland kept possession after Rambo’s score and waited out the clock.

Kelly took advantage of the man-up advantage 20 seconds into the second quarter with an assist from Rambo.

Rambo assisted on all four of Kelly’s early scores, and his score a few minutes into the second quarter moved him into first place in Maryland history with 232 career points.

“It’s special to me,” Rambo said, “but I gotta thank all the teammates I’ve had along the way.”

Saturday, those teammates were instrumental in Rambo racking up his points.

Both coaches said the Blue Jays defense focused in on Rambo so hard early in the game that the other members of the Terps offense were open.

“Early, we were so concerned with matchups, and we were so concerned with Rambo,” Pietramala said, “that we went [towards him] when we shouldn’t have gone [and] we made poor decisions.”

Trailing 8-0 after Rambo’s score, the Blue Jays got on the board with a close-range shot from attackman Cole Williams after a rare defensive lapse from the Terps led to Williams wide open just outside the crease.

Neither team scored over the next nine minutes until Terps midfielder Tim Rotanz beat the halftime buzzer with a tight-angle shot, putting the cap on a nearly-perfect first half for Maryland that ended with the Terps holding a 9-1 lead.

“You can’t spot a team like this an eight-goal lead and think you’re going to survive because they played too well defensively,” Pietramala said. “I just thought we got beat.”

Blue Jays star attackman Shack Stanwick, who injured his foot in last week’s win over Michigan, played Saturday but managed just one assist and one shot.

Maryland, meanwhile, scored nine goals on 14 shots before halftime, and the Blue Jays goalkeepers — Turnbaugh was replaced in net by Gerald Logan after allowing seven goals — combined for just two saves, both in the second quarter.

The teams played an even second half, scoring three goals apiece, but Maryland had plenty of cushion to cruise to its third-consecutive Big Ten title.

“They played tougher, and I thought they played more committed lacrosse,” Pietramala said.

Rambo completed his hat trick with 15 seconds left in the third quarter, tying his career high with seven points.

Early in the fourth quarter, Heacock scored his third goal of the game, giving him four points and preventing the Blue Jays from ever having a comeback chance.

“We were a step late all day long, to every ground ball, to getting to the goal and to getting to them,” Pietramala said. “They deserve the credit. They beat us.”

As the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Big Ten tournament, which will be played in Columbus, Ohio, the Terps will play Penn State in their semifinal game on Thursday, May 4. The Blue Jays will be the third-seed and will play host Ohio State in their semifinal game.

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