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Maryland men's lacrosse headed in wrong direction entering NCAA tournament

For the third time in coach John Tillman's five-year tenure at Maryland, the Terps men's lacrosse team will enter the NCAA Division I tournament on the heels of a loss.

But unlike in 2011 and 2012, the sixth-seeded Terps (12-3) have lost two straight entering their first-round matchup Saturday against Yale (11-4) at Byrd Stadium.

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For a team with national championship aspirations, coach John Tillman said his players haven't dwelled on the losing streak.

"I think, in a dream situation, you always want to be a team that's hot and obviously with a lot of momentum," he said. "The way it goes now with conference tournaments, most teams aren't going to go in with winning streaks — at least not significant ones, especially if you played the last weekend. I think if you play in a really good conference, only one team's coming out of there with a win. So there's a good chance of a number of teams going in without a win. You kind of have to look and say that's the nature of conference tournaments, and you're going to play some really good teams. Some are going to get the W, and some aren't."

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The Terps' 15-12 loss to Johns Hopkins in their April 25 regular-season finale and their 9-6 setback against Ohio State in a Big Ten Conference tournament semifinal April 30 had similar problems. Maryland won just one faceoff in the fourth quarter of each game, which forced the defense into more action, which contributed to the Terps' late collapses in both.

The Terps' inability to close out opponents — they had one-goal leads after the third quarter of their past two losses — has Tillman's attention.

"The games we've lost kind of tell that tale that we've been outscored in those games," he said. "I think if you just focus on those losses, it is concerning that the other teams have outscored us in the fourth quarters. Knowing that the weather is going to be warmer and the potential for fatigue is there, we've got to do a better job of managing the game and not letting our team get worn down."

Maryland, making its Division I-best 13th consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, hopes to rely on its experience in the postseason. Five starters also started on last year's team, which advanced to the Final Four before falling, 11-6, to Notre Dame. Three others played extensively during that run.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, who beat the Terps in late February, 10-6, didn't make the tournament last year.

"We do have a number of players that have extensive experience in the NCAAs," Tillman said. "They understand what the environment is like; they understand what it takes. We're really going to rely on those guys and make sure those guys can help some of the younger players and reflect on some of the things they've done to be successful. This might be the highest-ranked team that we've had since I've been here going into the NCAAs. So at this time of year, you just have to realize where you're at. I think if you make sure that you're addressing every aspect of your team and realizing how important it is to play well in every facet and you address it, it certainly helps."

edward.lee@baltsun.com


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