If there was one vulnerability facing the Maryland men's lacrosse team, the presumptive favorite in the NCAA Division I tournament and No. 1 seed, it was an unsettling inconsistency on faceoffs.
The Terps might have remedied that situation, thanks to Austin Henningsen. The freshman won 14-of-17 draws including all 12 in the first half to power Maryland to a 13-6 victory over visiting Quinnipiac in a first-round game before an announced 1,727 at Maryland Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Terps (15-2) collected their Division I-leading 14th consecutive win and will meet the winner of Sunday night's contest between No. 8 seed Syracuse (11-4) and Albany (12-3) in an NCAA quarterfinal at noon Saturday at Brown Stadium in Providence.
Henningsen had sat out four games in April because of an unspecified leg injury. He returned for the team's run to the Big Ten tournament championship, but played sparingly in victories against Penn State and Rutgers, taking 16 faceoffs, winning nine, and picking up seven ground balls.
Sunday was a far different story as Henningsen scooped up a game-high seven loose balls and looked very much like the player who had entered the day ranked 12th in the country with a 61.7 faceoff percent (on 108-of-175).
Henningsen was not made available for the team's post-game conference, but coach John Tillman said Henningsen was as healthy as he had been earlier in the season.
"Big key early, I think it goes without saying, Austin Henningsen and the wing guys were terrific to go 12-for-12 in the first half," he said. "Just allowed us so many possessions that candidly we wish had done a better job."
With Henningsen giving the offense multiple possessions, the Terps attacked the Bobcats' defense frequently. Junior attackman Matt Rambo and senior midfielders Bryan Cole and Henry West scored three goals each. Rambo also contributed two assists, while Cole and West finished with one assist each.
Because Quinnipiac was concerned about the interior and elected to keep its defenders in a tight formation, Maryland settled for shots on the perimeter. Many of those shots eluded redshirt junior goalkeeper Jack Brust (Calvert Hall).
"We could see on film, they were kind of packing it in," Cole said. "So our game plan was to be patient, like we always are. If you look at a guy like Henry West who had three goals today, that's a testament to his hard work, his shooting ability, not taking too many bad shots. … I think a lot of the guys were just kind of probing and probing and looking for the right pass, the right play. After the first half, we kind of settled in there."
Although the Bobcats scored the game's first goal, courtesy of sophomore midfielder Anthony Carchietta with 13 minutes, 25 seconds left in the first quarter, Maryland racked up three straight goals and scored four of the last six in the half to enjoy a 7-3 advantage at halftime.
Freshman midfielder Foster Cuomo scored with 11:03 left in the third quarter to end a 16:09 drought for Quinnipiac, but the Terps scored the period's last five goals to create a more-than-comfortable feeling for the remainder of the contest.
Redshirt senior goalie Kyle Bernlohr made seven saves, and the Terps' defense limited Bobcats' top two goal scorers — senior Ryan Keenan (33 goals) and sophomore Brian Feldman (36 goals) — to one score each.
"We communicated down the stretch," Terps senior defenseman Matt Dunn said. "We kind of got off a slow start, which we have to work on. We have to play consistently for 60 minutes. … I think it was a team effort. Definitely got better as the game went on."
Carchietta scored two goals, and Brust made a game-best 10 saves for Quinnipiac (12-4), the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament champion that saw its nine-game winning streak end in the program's first NCAA postseason appearance.
But coach Eric Fekete said the Bobcats made too many errors that Maryland pounced on.
"I would say that one of the biggest differences in the game is, we made some mistakes along the way, and they exploited every one," he said. "We probably didn't do a good job in exploiting their mistakes. They're the No. 1 team in the country for a reason. I think they're very dynamic offensively and defensively, and I give them a lot of credit. They played great today."