COLLEGE PARK — The Maryland men's lacrosse team wanted to play the perfect game Saturday, but the Terps had to settle for a great start and a strong finish.
Despite sloppy play in the second half, including a few anxious minutes midway in the fourth quarter, the No. 7 Terps defeated No. 10 Duke, 10-7, before a crowd of 4,137 at Byrd Stadium.
Senior midfielder Drew Snider led Maryland (3-0) with three goals, and sophomore goalie Niko Amato made nine of his 14 saves in the fourth quarter to help the Terps hold off any serious challenge from the Blue Devils (3-2). Sophomore attackman Josh Dionne scored three goals and senior midfielder Justin Turri added two for Duke.
One of the Terps' goals this season is to score at least 10 goals each game. They built a 5-1 lead at the end of the first quarter and went into the half with a 7-2 advantage. The Terps were simply faster than Duke's defenders and also blistered the Blue Devils' zone defense with high, outside shots past goalie Kyle Turri.
Five Terps scored in the first quarter. And for a team rebuilding on offense after losing 17 seniors — including two starting attackman — from a year ago, the Terps showed great ball movement in the first half.
"The great thing about our offense is that it's not centered around one guy," said Snider, who scoreed two of his goals on extra-man situations in the second quarter. "It's a dynamic offense, and we feel we're a threat all the time depending on the matchups.
"We played with a lot of passion today. I think being young inspires us."
The inexperience might have also hurt the Terps. They outshot Duke, 22-15, in the first half, but were outshot, 25-6, in the second. The Blue Devils also had a 17-14 advantage in ground balls in the final two quarters as Maryland committed 16 turnovers compared to just four in the first half.
But Duke converted on only one of four extra-man opportunities in the fourth period.
Amato took control of the game in that period, making three point-blank saves during a seven-minute stretch to prevent Duke from pulling closer.
"We have so much confidence in Niko," Maryland coach John Tillman said. "Like any of those guys, he goes through his ups and downs. He holds himself to such high standards that when he has a bad quarter or a bad practice, he comes down on himself too hard. He had been going through a little funk this week, but I thought he played well today."
Tillman was less pleased with the Terps' offensive performance in the second half.
"We really shot ourselves in the foot with some quick possessions," he said. "We didn't make great decisions, we turned the ball over on some clears, they won some face-offs and then we fouled. We held the ball at times just to give our defense a little bit of a rest. That kind of changed the flow of the game and we never got it back."
After also playing a strong half and a poor one against Georgetown, the Terps don't want the inconsistency to become a pattern.
"We're kind of a young team, and our natural instincts are to relax a little bit," Snider said. "But we can't do that if we want to be in the Final Four or the championship game. We were sloppy and we have to clean that up come May."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun