Maryland men’s lacrosse dominates Princeton again, this time for tournament win

After struggling with just 14 combined goals over the last two games, Maryland’s offense came back to life with a season-high 16 goals against Princeton for the opening round NCAA Tournament win.

Luke Wierman set a school record in tournament games with a career-high 15 groundballs, along with tying the school record for face-off wins (20), while nine Terps registered at least one point as Eric Spanos led the way with four of his own.

Maryland was firing on both ends to start the game, jumping out to a quick 3-0 lead just eight minutes in. Goalie Logan McNaney shined with four early saves while the Terps’ defense forced five Princeton turnovers along with multiple bad shots.  It wasn’t until 4:14 left in the first quarter that Princeton found, proving to be the Tigers’ lone goal of the quarter, before Eric Spanos found the back of the net for his first of the game just minutes later.

Maryland carried their momentum into the second quarter, scoring four consecutive to extend their lead to 8-1. Koras and Eric Malever scored once on the four-goal run while Spanos scored another two goals during the run. With 7:37 left in the second quarter, Princeton would finally stop the bleeding, cutting the lead back to six, but would not be able to gain any momentum from it and cut into the Terps’ lead anymore. It wasn’t for another six minutes that either team would find the back of the net when Koras would net his third goal of the day and extend Maryland’s lead back to seven. As Maryland dominated en route to an 11-3 halftime advantage, a big reason for the lead was Luke Wierman after finishing 13-of-16 on faceoffs through the first-half to set up the Terps’ offensive scoring chances.

Things began to slow down for Maryland’s offense in the second half, partially due to Princeton’s goalie coming down with six saves in the third quarter, but Maryland’s defense responded. Princeton scored two goals to start the quarter trying to chip into the Terps lead. It was not until 2:38 left in the third quarter that the Terps would find the back of the net again thanks to Spanos giving him his fourth goal of the day. Princeton would score yet again to cut the Terps lead back to six and make it a 12-6 Terps lead heading into the final quarter. McNaney and the defense forced eight turnovers against the Tigers in the third quarter while McNaney also made four saves.

Then the fourth quarter started as the offense was back in its groove and after four straight goals, Maryland had its largest lead of the game. To start the fourth quarter, the Terps offense got back into a groove again and scored four straight goals to give them their largest lead of the day at ten goals. Malever added to the tally to give him his 14th on the season while Owen Murphy joined the goal-scoring party to net his seventh goal of the season. Daniel Maltz followed Murphy up with two goals of his own during the Terps’ four-goal run giving him his 23rd and 24th goals of the season. Once the Terps hit 16 goals on the day, head coach John Tillman decided to bring in the backups and give them some playing time to avoid any unnecessary injuries to finish the game. Princeton would end up cutting the Terps’ lead down to eight making it a 16-8 game as the final horn sounded. 

Wierman finished the day going 20-of-26 from the face-off dot which gave him the Terps single-game NCAA Tournament record for face-off wins in a tournament game. Wierman also picked up 15 ground balls in the win, making him just three ground balls away from the all-time record at Maryland. McNaney finished the day with 11 saves. First-round draft pick Ajax Zappitello held the Tigers’ top leading scorer to just one goal while also adding three caused turnovers and a ground ball to his name. Maryland’s offensive stars of the game were Eric Malever and Jack Koras. Both Koras and Malever finished the game with three goals and two assists on the day giving them five points each, including a jaw-dropping goal from Malever.

One big thing that was different with the Terps offense this game that led to the high scoring was how they matched up. In the past this season, both Malever and Braden Erksa had lined up at attack while Kelly and Spanos would come out of the box.

However in this game, the Terps had Malever and Erksa coming out of the box as midfielders while Spanos and Kelly lined up at attack. This helped Erksa and Malever get more favorable matchups and led to the high-scoring game. 

The Terps avoided losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1993-1994 and also avoided their first three-game losing streak since 2009. The Terps will now face a familiar foe in the Duke Blue Devils next Saturday in the NCAA quarterfinals. The last time the Terps faced Duke was in the national semifinals in 2021 and the Terps won 14-5. The game will be up at Hofstra University and will air on ESPNU. The game does not have a set time yet.

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