EMMITSBURG, Md. | The latest lacrosse meanderings for Maryland took the Terrapins near the Mason-Dixon line and far from much scrutiny or the threat of a setback.
Or so it seemed, anyway.
The Terps collected a 12-8 victory Wednesday night over Mount St. Mary’s before 1,278 at Waldron Family Stadium. The triumph will function neither as a springboard nor an excessive speed bump as Maryland motors toward May.
It was a tie game with four minutes remaining in the first half. The Terps allowed more shots on goal to find the net than they stopped.
And on many levels, it was not a surprise.
Coach John Tillman’s watchword from the start of the season was “new” —- as in, these Terps are very much different than the bunch who made a run to the national title game last year. Realistically, they’re not new anymore, not a dozen games into the season.
Early on, a bit of erratic play could be shrugged off. At this stage, it is an intrinsic part of Maryland’s identity.
“We know who we are,” junior long pole Jesse Bernhardt said. “It’s been a common theme. We embrace the fact that when it gets hard, that’s when we embrace it. We don’t expect it to come easy to us.”
It doesn’t for the Terps (8-4), just as it didn’t Wednesday. It was Bernhardt, with an early goal off a faceoff and providing a hockey assist on another in a pre-halftime spurt, who went a long way in providing a cushion.
Maryland is far from doomed, of course. This is the same team that dominated Navy in the second half, blistered Johns Hopkins for the final 30 minutes and held a potent Duke team to six goals in its last three outings. The Terps are imperfect, sure, but plenty dangerous.
They were clearly the superior team against the feisty Mountaineers (4-8) for about a third of the game —- during a 3-0 burst to open, and then for an 8-2 run sandwiched around halftime.
As for the rest of the night, Maryland slogged through, not so much disinterested and disengaged as just out of sorts and a bit lethargic.
“Overall, the quality of play wasn’t the greatest,” Bernhardt said. “Mount St. Mary’s is a very good team and they had some players, but we could have played better ourselves as Maryland. We didn’t do some of the fundamental things the best that we could have done.”
That goes for the offense as well. Maryland’s quick 3-0 lead preceded a 23-minute scoring drought, a modest concern with more punishing opponents on the horizon.
“We have to do a better job of settling down, especially on the offensive end and having smart possessions,” said attackman Joe Cummings, who hit the 100-point plateau for his career. “I can think of a few times where I didn’t do the best job leading on offense. Heading into the [NCAA] tournament, that’s definitely an area where we can do a much better job.”
Ultimately, the postseason is where there will be more scrutiny, where there will be no midweek ventures off the beaten path for the Terps to work out their kinks. There will be no hiding from a sloppy performance.
Wednesday was a reminder of what was already known. Like it or not, Maryland shouldn’t expected to provide the steadiest play, not after two-plus months of unpredictability.
That isn’t all bad, there’s no reason to believe there will be any long-term impact from belatedly putting away the pesky Mountaineers.
“Everything for this team is going to be tough,” Tillman said. “We’re just not dynamic enough to just come out and for anything to be easy. But if we work, we can be pretty good.”
—- Patrick Stevens