Maryland men's lacrosse goalkeeper Dan Morris waited long enough.
For three seasons, he watched from the sidelines as starting netminders Niko Amato, a three-time All-American, and Kyle Bernlohr, a two-time All-American, helped the Terps reach the Final Four.
But after Bernlohr graduated last year, Morris received an opportunity to take over the position. He'd never started before, but seniors Isaiah Davis-Allen and Colin Heacock said the team was confident in his abilities entering the year.
Against No. 11 Navy on Saturday, Morris kept the Terps close with impressive first-half saves. While he conceded a flurry of fourth-quarter scores during the Midshipmen's late push, his work in the crease contributed to a season-opening 15-12 victory.
"I thought Dan Morris was really good today in his first start," coach John Tillman said of his redshirt junior's 12 stops. "He made some huge plays for us when we went down."
Last week, Morris joined Tillman to watch film on Navy's offensive tendencies. He also practiced against the scout team offense, which mimicked how the Midshipmen would attack.
Still, Morris said he was nervous before the game. After all, he needed to limit a ranked in-state rival Tillman billed as "fired up" and eager to compete.
Morris allowed a goal in the opening minute. Eight minutes later, he conceded another score to give the Midshipmen a 2-1 lead.
But rather than dwell on the early deficit, he remembered the work he'd done during the week to prepare for the contest. That helped him settle down and make a crucial save.
With about six minutes remaining in the first period, Davis-Allen, a defensive midfielder, unleashed a long shot, but Navy goalkeeper Ryan Kern blocked the effort and gathered the ground ball in front of the net.
The Midshipmen, sensing an opportunity to break with the Terps committed to the attack, cleared. They fed star attackman Jack Ray near the goal, and he rocketed a hard look toward the bottom left of the target.
But Morris stopped the shot to prevent Navy from taking a two-goal advantage. And during the ensuing Terps possession, midfielder Connor Kelly leveled the score.
Morris made five first-quarter saves.
"After I got into [the game,] I fell back on how Coach Tillman and the other coaches have prepared me," Morris said. "The nerves kind of went away after that."
The Terps struggled to protect Morris in the first half, letting Navy take 22 shots. As the game progressed, though, they maintained possession and took pressure off their goalkeeper, conceding 13 shots over the final two quarters.
Maryland's control gave defenders a break and allowed its high-powered offense to take over. Starting with a third-frame goal from midfielder Nick Brozowski, the Terps went on an 8-2 scoring run to take a 14-8 lead.
"That third quarter flipping time of possession was huge for us because our guys played so much defense in the first half," Tillman said.
Navy racked up four garbage-time goals to reach 12 for the game, a higher tally than the Terps allowed in any regular season contest last year.
Even so, Tillman said Morris played well and showed the poise he expects from his starting goalkeeper. After three years of waiting, it's his turn.
"I've seen a lot more assertiveness, a lot more leadership from him knowing he is the guy," Tillman said. "We've made no bones about it. Based on what he's done the last three years, he's earned the right to be the goalie. We're confident in Dan."