The recent trend among Division I men’s lacrosse coaches is to open their seasons earlier to avoid as many midweek games as possible.
The reigning NCAA champions (2-0) dealt with the visiting Red Foxes (0-3) quickly. After senior attackman Gannon Morrison gave Marist a 1-0 lead just 1:54 into the game, the No. 2 Terps scored five straight goals in the first quarter and added four more in the second frame to enter halftime with an insurmountable 9-3 advantage.
Sophomore attackman Jared Bernhardt said he appreciated the break from the routine of playing games only on Saturdays.
“I think it’s a good changeup,” said Bernhardt, who set career highs in goals (five), assists (two) and points (seven)“It’s something a little bit different. Some teams don’t really do that, but I think for us, we like some of those challenges. I think it’s good to get out there and do that.”
Maryland and Loyola Maryland are the only two area programs that have two midweek games on their respective schedules, but the former is the only one with two in February. The Terps will host Penn (0-0) on Feb. 21.
Tillman acknowledged that he was somewhat worried about how the players would respond after outlasting Navy, 10-4, on Saturday.
“Midweek games are tough because you’re out of your element,” he said. “You come off that first game and there’s a lot of excitement and guys are really into it. And then it’s midweek, smaller crowd. There’s not much juice, so you have to create it, and I thought our guys did that tonight. Again, it wasn’t always pretty, but I just liked how hard our kids played and how well they stuck together.”
Senior midfielder Connor Kelly said the weekday games serve a purpose for the current team, which graduated three starting attackmen, one starting defenseman and its top two short-stick defensive midfielders from last spring.
“These early-season games are huge for us,” said Kelly, who established career bests in assists (four) and points (eight) against the Red Foxes. “Obviously, we’re trying to figure out the parts both defensively and offensively. But to come out with a win is huge for us. Honestly, we’re trying to figure out ourselves and find our identity. But it was a great win this evening.”
Maryland has thrived in midweek games since Tillman succeeded Dave Cottle as coach. The program collected its 11th consecutive win in midweek games and is 12-1 overall since 2011.
The final score might have been more lopsided if not for the play of Red Foxes goalkeeper Brian Corrigan. One of only two returners to rank in the top five in goals-against average and top 10 in save percentage, the redshirt senior made a game-high 17 saves.
Tillman said the players will get Wednesday off before returning to practice Thursday and Friday before Saturday’s road game against High Point (0-2). He said the midweek games are good tests for the Big Ten tournament, which requires its qualifiers to play Thursday and Saturday.
“If we can get to the Big Ten tournament and be fortunate enough to get a win, this is something our guys can reflect on, but that’s a big if,” he said. “It’s hard to simulate that experience unless you go through it. But with very little prep and some guys getting banged up and guys sore and they’re tired and not having much prep, it seems like when there are upsets, it’s usually the midweek or a team that played midweek and then they came back on Saturday because you’re still on a short amount of prep and rest. Now for us, we’ve got to get prepared for High Point and travel down there. So you’re still on the back end of it. So you’re not out of the woods yet.”
Marist 2 1 2 2 — 7
Maryland 5 4 2 2 — 13
Goals: M—Constant 2, Morrison 2, Intermesoli, Quinn, Smith; MD—Bernhardt 5, Kelly 4, Wisnauskas 2, Avanzato, Dubick. Assists: M—Constant, Morrison, Sclappick; MD—Kelly 4, Bernhardt 2, Wisnauskas 2, Rotanz. Saves: M—Corrigan 17; MD—Morris 10, Dolan 2.