Besides a second-quarter burst, Maryland’s 12-8 defeat of Bellarmine at Byrd Stadium on Monday hardly demonstrated much.
The Terrapins were 48 hours removed from their first loss, didn’t partake in the best shot selection and at times looked weary.
But the most important part for Maryland was simply playing after enduring a 9-8 overtime setback at Duke and the ensuing bus ride back to College Park.
“It helps us move on,” coach John Tillman said. “We talked about it after the game in Durham: The best thing that could have happened was to play, and we got the opportunity to move forward.”
Make no mistake: The Terps (3-1) can still go forward quite a ways. They have a veteran offense, an experienced defense and the early returns suggest they’ve found a capable faceoff man in Curtis Holmes.
But what wasn’t quite so certain was how Maryland, owners of three straight NCAA quarterfinal losses, would handle its first setback of the season.
That was iffy, especially since the Terps didn’t entirely acquit themselves well in the first half in Durham. It gave Duke, which lost twice in February, a chance to stick around. It was precisely what Tillman fretted about all week, concerned about his own team and the resilience of the defending national champions.
Then the Blue Devils tied it with three seconds left and won it in overtime and suddenly Maryland had some issues to deal with.
Dispatching the Knights (2-3) was the first step in taking care of them.
“I feel like we did a great job of keeping positive and focusing a lot on this game and not being sourpusses about the last game,” long pole Brian Farrell said. “We did a good job of sucking it up.”
Farrell is a fifth-year senior, and he’s seen just about everything. He was his usual self in transition, and he assisted a Grant Catalino goal just 13 seconds in.
It wouldn’t be quite so easy, though the Terps never trailed. But it was a bit of a slog, an understandable development two days after a game.
“We knew we wouldn’t be fresh and we’d have to grind it out,” Tillman said. “More than anything, we kind of grinded our way through it.”
This was a touchy situation for Tillman, who was navigating his way through the wreckage of a loss for the first time with the Terps. There was plenty to learn from the loss, plenty certain to be brought up in the coming days as Maryland prepares to face Towson.
But there was also the quirky reality the Terps didn’t play well and still had every chance to escape with a victory.
“Duke’s defending national champions,” attackman Travis Reed said. “They obviously don’t have the same team as last year, but we played not very good and we were still right around there. The good thing is we didn’t give up and and got up by one goal.”
There would be little doubt two days later how Maryland would respond. It was up 9-2 at the break, and with better shooting performance might have solved solid Bellarmine goalie Dillon Ward (16 saves in the first half).
Yes, Maryland earned a victory Monday. What it really did was begin growing from its first loss without really forgetting it.
“Everyone’s trying to put it in the past without completely putting it in the past,” Reed said.
—- Patrick Stevens