Maryland men's lacrosse coach John Tillman called a timeout with 12 seconds remaining in the first half of Saturday's 12-10 win against Notre Dame, likely seeking one more opportunity to score. The Terps were left frustrated with their offensive output in their previous matchups with the Fighting Irish.
By the time the halftime buzzer sounded at Maryland Stadium, midfielder Connor Kelly had ignited a wild celebration from the Terps' sideline with a finish off a feed from attackman Jared Bernhardt.
Kelly's leading role changed coach John Tillman's attack against a stout Fighting Irish defense. He ended the day with three goals and seven assists, helping Maryland put up its largest goal tally against Notre Dame in five meetings. Kelly became the fourth player in Maryland history, and first since 1979, to record 10 points in a game.
Kelly's success helped the No. 2 Terps secure their seventh consecutive win against a top-10 opponent. It also snapped a two-game losing streak against the Fighting Irish as the Terps prepare to face three more top-10 teams in the coming weeks.
"He had a tremendous day," Tillman said. "The seven assists, [he's] trying to make guys around him better. He's keeping his head up and looking for his teammates."
Still, the Fighting Irish remained aggressive late. Notre Dame midfielder Pierre Byrne scored with about a minute left to cut the deficit to two, but the Terps' defense held off the comeback attempt.
While Notre Dame's defense kept the Terps' potent attack in check recently, Fighting Irish coach Kevin Corrigan was unsure the low-scoring trend would continue. His suspicion was correct.
Kelly ensured that would be the case, responding to a pair of Notre Dame goals in the first quarter with two of his own. His first score Saturday came as he spun away from a defender. His second made it a 4-2 contest at the end of the first, matching the Terps' output in their previous games against Notre Dame in a matter of about nine minutes.
"I'm trying to find whatever I can do to better this offense," Kelly said. "Me and [midfielder Tim Rotanz] have to facilitate as well as communicate what we're doing on the offensive end."
The Easton, Connecticut, native didn't score again until the waning seconds of the first half. After Notre Dame scored twice in a row to draw within a goal, the closest it would get to the Terps, Kelly followed midfielder Adam DiMillo's score with a buzzer-beating strike to send the Terps into the intermission with a three-point lead.
Assistant coach J.L Reppert considered the different possibilities and chose the play, Tillman said.
The Terps' eight scores in the first half were the most the Fighting Irish have allowed in a game this season. They entered Saturday allowing seven goals per game, the best mark in the ACC and third-best in the country.
"Connor in front of the goal, even a little bit farther out, he's got such good range and great velocity," Tillman said. "We have so much confidence in Connor that if he wants to take that shot, we'll take it any day of the week."
Kelly connected with the Terps attack for much of the second half, including on midfielder Logan Wisnauskas' score in the third that pushed Maryland's edge back to three. He orchestrated a Maryland attack so effective that Corrigan changed his goalie for the final 20 minutes.
Kelly wasn't perfect, missing wide on multiple shots, but he didn't need to be. The rest of the attack contributed, and Maryland's defense did enough to disrupt Notre Dame's attack. Despite the physical matchup and pressure from the Fighting Irish defense, Kelly and the Terps extended their nation-leading winning streak to 12 games.
"Where our work is really done is in the week of preparation," face-off specialist Justin Shockey said. "Everyone did a great job with that and put me and everyone else in a position to succeed."