Late in the second quarter of Saturday's season opener against visiting High Point, Maryland trailed 6-3 before a goal from senior midfielder Bryan Cole trimmed the deficit to 6-4 at halftime.
It was a surprising development for a team that had advanced to last May's NCAA tournament final and is ranked fourth in the country this week. But coach John Tillman said being in a hole in the first game of the year was a good test for the Terps.
"Obviously, you never want to be trailing, but you realize that sometimes that's just the reality of where you're going to be," he said Tuesday morning during his weekly conference call. "I give High Point a lot of credit. I thought they played very well, and when we had some mistakes, I thought they just capitalized. I thought they did a very good job. So my hat's off to them. We knew their attack was very dangerous, and we felt like they had the capability of putting some stress on us.
"I think early season, you just never really know what's going to happen. You're trying to balance preparation, but not overdoing it. So you're trying to find your way a little bit. So I think we're still trying to find our way a little bit. But I thought being in a tough spot like that forced us to bear down and see if we could show some poise and just fight our way out of it or cave. I was obviously proud of our guys. They just continued to stick together and working and grinding. It certainly wasn't a work of art, but I think with early season lacrosse, a lot of it is going to be like that. The games are going to be a little bit sloppier, and you've got to find a way."
Maryland (1-0) proved dominant over the Panthers (0-3) in many statistical categories, including shots (50-26), faceoff wins (15-12) and extra-man conversions (3-for-4 versus 1-for-3).
But the Terps collected just 27 ground balls to High Point's 29. Ground balls were a trouble spot for Maryland, which averaged 26.7 loose balls to rank 46th out of 69 Division I teams in that department and last among the six Big Ten members last season.
So Tillman is understandably concerned about the Terps' showing in that area prior to Saturday's contest at No. 7 Yale (1-0), which outraced UMass-Lowell to 51 of 80 ground balls this past Saturday.
"For us, we take a lot of pride in ground balls, and Yale's a really good ground-ball team," Tillman said. "So that is an area of concern, something we've got to work on this week and just continue to get better at. Some of it's technique – a good amount of it. I also think High Point did a pretty good job off the ground as well."