Leading up to Saturday's matchup with Villanova, the Maryland men's lacrosse team insisted it maintained its normal rhythm despite not playing for two weeks. But in an upset loss to the Wildcats, the squad lacked offensive sharpness early on.
The Terps committed four first quarter turnovers, registered just two shots on target compared to the Villanova's seven and trailed, 3-1, through the opening 15 minutes.
Following its mistake-ridden beginning, No. 4 Maryland used a frenetic comeback in the final seven minutes of regulation to tie the game. Villanova, however, pulled away for a 13-12 victory at Maryland Stadium behind an overtime strike, handing the Terps their second straight loss.
"We should have been ready," defender Tim Muller said. "We had a week of preparation, so [the time off] shouldn't have played a factor. We just came out slow."
The Terps trailed by four midway through the fourth period, but with their hopes fading, star attackman Matt Rambo produced three of his four goals. Midfielder Tim Rotanz, who recorded a hat trick, unleashed an unassisted strike to tie the game with 27 seconds remaining.
Still, the Terps' early struggles doomed them.
Three times in the opening quarter, a Maryland player launched an errant pass from behind the net, leading to a transition opportunity for Villanova. The first, which flew over long pole Nick Brozowski's head about four minutes in, allowed the Wildcats to take a 1-0 lead on the counter attack.
After midfielder Connor Kelly leveled the score with an unassisted strike, Villanova exploded for five unanswered goals to jump ahead, 6-1.
As the Terps battled back, they continued to make unforced mistakes. In the second period, Rambo, who committed three turnovers after having four giveaways two weeks ago at Notre Dame, passed the ball to Villanova defender Jordan Cunningham. Again, the Wildcats charged down the field for a score, extending their advantage to 7-3.
"We were messing up on our fundamentals," Muller said. "We were letting them dictate the pace. They had a few fast break goals, transition goals … That was a little disheartening."
Goalkeeper Dan Morris, coming off a career-best 13 save performance against the Fighting Irish, struggled against Villanova's shooting onslaught. He recorded a .409 save percentage.
In the third frame, a slow bouncing shot rolled through his legs, allowing the Wildcats to regain their four goal lead.
With the Terps behind, 12-8, with seven minutes remaining, though, Rambo netted three straight times to pull his squad within one.
"No moment is too big for him," coach John Tillman said. "He likes when the game is on the line … There are some guys that shy away from that, [but] that's never been a problem for him."
Rotanz completed Maryland's run with a game-tying finish that prompted a wild reaction on the sideline. The team's jubilation, however, was short-lived.
In overtime, Villanova (3-4) completed its upset with a strike from attackman Danny Seibel. The Wildcats stormed the field and released numerous sticks high into the air in celebration. The Terps (4-2), meanwhile, trudged back to their own bench.
The mood in the Maryland locker room was somber, according to defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen. But the senior felt the Terps could learn from prior rough patches — such as when they dropped consecutive contests last March — to bounce back.
"Most people right now are sad," Davis-Allen said. "But it's not a spot our team hasn't been in before."