By Alex Mann
The No. 8 Maryland Terrapins capitalized on emphatic offensive performances from stalwarts Matt Rambo and Connor Kelly en route to a 15-11 victory over the previously unbeaten No. 1 Penn State Nittany Lions on Senior Day.
Maryland’s high-powered attack, featuring the likes of seniors Rambo (four goals, two assists) and Colin Heacock (three goals, one assist) — both members of the preseason Tewaaraton watch list — was aided by an efficient performance-by-committee at the faceoff. Austin Henningsen and Jon Garino Jr. combined to win 66 percent of face-offs (20 of 30).
“The faceoffs were huge,” Maryland coach John Tillman said. “John and Austin were terrific… [And] I thought that was the best wing play we’ve had.”
Wing play, Tillman added, was crucial because not every faceoff win was “clean,” but his players came away with the ball more often than not in the ensuing scrap.
The high-profile offense did its part as well. Maryland outshot Penn State 40 to 27 and seven Terps recorded goals, with Rambo and junior midfielder Connor Kelly leading the way with four apiece.
“[Maryland’s] first line midfield and first line attack, they’re really all the same,” Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni said. “They can all beat you in a lot of different ways.”
The Terps’ multifaceted offense was too much for Penn State, but Tambroni said that Rambo and Heacock “stand out as two of the best lacrosse players in the country.”
Maryland got extra possessions thanks to strong faceoff play and superior effort in picking up ground balls. Tillman said that his team did extra ground ball work this week. It showed — as the Terps dominated the hustle-oriented statistic by picking up 34 ground balls, compared to the Nittany Lion’s 16.
“At times we weren’t as clean as we’d like,” Tillman said. “But the effort was outstanding.”
The Terps got off to a fast start, as Connor Kelly opened up the scoring just 43 seconds in, rolling off his defender and ripping a shot past Penn State goalkeeper Colby Kneese.
After winning the ensuing faceoff, freshman midfielder Jared Bernhardt dove with his stick extended to sweep the ball to a teammate, stopping the ball from crossing the sideline and saving the Terps’ possession.
Like on many other possessions, Maryland capitalized. This time, Rambo dodged from behind the goal zinging a left-handed shot past the Penn State goalie — extending his streak of games with at least one point to 48.
After Maryland gave up a goal to the Nittany Lions, Rambo reeled off two more in the next four minutes, giving the Terps a convincing 4-1 lead.
“I thought since winning a lot faceoffs in the beginning, we had the ball more,” Rambo said. “Holding the ball and having possession time was a huge part of this game because [Penn State’s] offense is so good.”
The first quarter ended with Maryland ahead, 6-4. The second quarter was Colin Heacock time.
With 8:40 left in the half, Heacock spun off his defender, switching back to his preferred left hand in the process and uncorked a blazing high-to-high shot into the top right corner. 8-4, Maryland.
Heacock recorded another goal minutes later to help Maryland enter the half with a 10-6 lead.
The second half was highly contested, as Penn State went on a three-goal run in the 3rd quarter, cutting the lead to 12-9.
In the end, Maryland’s defense proved too stout for Penn State — holding the Nittany Lion offense that averages almost 15 goals a game to 11.
Senior short-stick defensive midfielders Isaiah Davis-Allen and Nick Manis were profoundly important to the Terps’ defensive efforts. Although their impact often doesn’t reflect on the stat sheet, they helped the Terps force five of Penn State’s 16 turnovers at crucial times in the second half.
“[Manis has] been awesome on-ball and he’s given us a big boost the last four, five games,” Davis-Allen said. “He does so much for our team, [as] an energy guy, a guy that’s vocal.”
“He played exceptionally well today.”