CHARLOTTESVILLE | Maryland zapped the gradually developing concern about the course of its men's lacrosse season Saturday.
In the process, the Terrapins made Virginia's headaches much, much larger.
The Terrapins' 12-7 victory at Scott Stadium, coupled with the indefinite suspension of Virginia midfielder Shamel Bratton, could prove a watershed moment for a pair of teams whose road to May success is proving bumpier than expected.
Maryland (7-2, 1-2 ACC) was perhaps a victim of an isolated lousy day, wasting a four-goal lead March 26 against North Carolina. The response - an emphatic victory in Charlottesville, the Terps' first since 2003 - might be a necessary reset as the Terps move on to in-state rivalry games against Navy and Johns Hopkins.
"A lot of people were criticizing us for our performance last weekend and this kind of just showed everyone else we're not just a team you can blow over," said senior attackman Ryan Young, who had two goals and four assists against Virginia. "It definitely was a sigh of relief to come out with this win."
The team on the other sideline left only with tension.
The Cavaliers (7-3, 0-1) have dropped consecutive games for the first time since the end of the 2007 season. Their talented but inexperienced defense was dissected Saturday, exposing issues in containing off-ball threats.
More significantly, the offense was lethargic without Bratton, a two-time all-America pick who ranks in the top five in goals, assists and points among midfielders in program history.
Bratton, who was suspended one game in late February for a violation of team rules, now faces an indefinite absence for an infraction coach Dom Starsia did not elaborate upon.
"The team has a set of guidelines and rules and I do treat everybody individually, but the rules need to be applied equally," Starsia said. "We'll continue to stay in touch and sort this out."
There's only so much time to do so. Virginia must deal with North Carolina, Duke and the ACC tournament in the next three weeks. The loss of Bratton's production probably isn't as meaningful as the absence of the opportunities he and his potent shot create for others.
Starsia quickly remembered the most recent time Virginia fell to Hopkins and Maryland on back-to-back weekends. That was 2003, when the Cavaliers didn't lose again on the way to a national title.
Progress, rather than championships, will be his team's immediate priority.
"We're 7-3, played a tough schedule and have some good wins," Starsia said. "We just want to be a team that continues to improve, and I don't think you saw a lot of evidence of that today."
Not so for the Terps. Maryland flustered Virginia's offense and scored with ease in the second half without receiving a point from star attackman Grant Catalino. The Terps emerged from a trying week with a crucial victory, but without any guarantees, either.
"The way we were kind of called out and everything that was said, it's easy for doubt to creep in," Maryland coach John Tillman said. "It's easy to trick yourself one way or the other, like you're too good or too bad. ... We weren't going to define ourselves at this point."
After consecutive losses, that's a philosophy Virginia might want to adopt as well.
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