Leading up to its first-round NCAA tournament matchup with Bryant, the Maryland men's lacrosse team hadn't faced an unranked opponent since March 18. In that midseason game, the Terps lost to Villanova at Maryland Stadium.
Though the Terps went 8-1 in their ensuing nine-game stretch against top-20 sides, earning the No. 1 seed in the tournament, they remained wary of suffering another home upset against the Bulldogs.
But after a slow start, Maryland used a dominant third quarter to claim a 13-10 victory at Maryland Stadium and advance to the quarterfinals for the fourth straight season, where it'll play No. 8 seed Albany next week.
"We talk about those [kind of losses] being scars," Tillman said of the Villanova defeat. "It was a bad feeling and it's something we'll always live with. … So we talked about the vulnerability of if you don't come ready, you can feel that way again."
Midfielder Tim Rotanz provided a career-high five goals, and attackman Matt Rambo added eight points.
Goalkeeper Dan Morris, meanwhile, made 10 saves to help Maryland (13-3) keep the Bryant in check until a late burst.
As the Terps struggled to pull away from Bryant (11-8) early on, Rotanz provided a first-half boost. He notched three goals before intermission, and set up another conversion by causing a turnover with around 12 minutes left in the second quarter.
After midfielder Jared Bernhardt gave the ball away, leading to the beginnings of a Bryant break, Rotanz leveled Bulldogs midfielder Tom Kennedy, dislodging the ball from his stick.
Midfielder Nick Manis picked up the loose ball and started a Terps counterattack, which concluded with attackman Dylan Maltz's 23rd goal of the year to give Maryland a 5-2 advantage.
However, the play did not spark a larger run. Bryant recorded two of the final three goals in the half, closing the gap to 6-4 at the break.
In the third quarter, though, Maryland gained control, outscoring the Bulldogs 5-1.
With the Terps ahead, 7-4, Bernhardt finished a long shot while Bryant midfielder Pearse McEneaney checked him to the ground. The hit drew a penalty for unnecessary roughness, and on the following extra-man opportunity, Rotanz scored his fourth goal of the contest to give the squad a 9-4 lead.
"We really wanted to … take a deep breath and get the ball moving and get into our sets," Rotanz said. "We were kind of just going so fast, so hectic and we weren't really getting our looks. Once we started getting our looks … we knew we could get some goals."
Just over a minute after Rotanz registered his fifth strike midway through the fourth quarter, the senior provided his career-best sixth dish. He received a pass on the right wing, drew a couple of Bryant defenders and supplied midfielder Adam DiMillo, who caught the feed in traffic and shot in one motion.
The strike gave the Terps a 13-5 lead and enough of a cushion to withstand the Bulldogs' late 5-0 run to close the game. While the players were pleased to advance with the victory, defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen acknowledged they need to improve their late-game approach in the quarterfinals.
"[It was] kind of the same stuff that coach has been talking about all year," Davis-Allen said. "Just like stick work, footwork and talking to each other broke down [at the end of the game]."
For Tillman, who preaches steady improvement, the ending provided him an area to focus on in practice before Maryland's second bout with Albany this year.
"We'd love to finish in a cleaner way," Tillman said. "But I think you've got to give credit to Bryant for fighting like crazy. … We had some breakdowns late, but at the end of the day we'll go back, we'll look at the tape and hopefully learn and grow."