John Tillman
John Tillman

The key to the Terrapins men’s lacrosse team’s convincing 16-4 victory at Hartford on Saturday laid in the game’s first few minutes. The No. 2 Terps had more talent and depth than the Hawks and knew they could put away their opponents easily if they kept Hartford from gaining confidence early.

It’s the same blueprint they followed during a 23-6 blowout in the season opener against Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday. The Terps jumped to a 7-0 first-quarter lead in that game and never looked back.

The Terps had just as much success Saturday. Attackman Owen Blye started the scoring when he found the back of the net a little more than a minute into the game. Attackman Kevin Cooper and midfielders Jake Bernhardt and Mike Chanenchuk all quickly followed suit, giving the Terps a 4-0 advantage with seven minutes still remaining in the first quarter. The Terps built a 9-1 lead before halftime and cruised to the 12-goal win.

“Going into the game, we wanted to bring energy, bring focus,” Blye said. “We knew their crowd was going to be intense if we let them stay in it, so we tried to come out and establish ourselves in the first five minutes.”

Their success wasn’t limited to the early minutes, though. The Terps poured it on all game, with Blye’s career-high five goals and Cooper’s second straight hat trick leading the way. Cooper also added two assists, giving him 11 points just two games into the season.

Even with all that offensive firepower, the defense wasn’t outshined. The Terps tallied 16 clears in 21 opportunities, won the groundball battle, 38-20, and goaltender Niko Amato saved eight of 10 shots.

The Terps (2-0) dominated in nearly every aspect of the game Saturday, just as they did against Mount St. Mary’s four days earlier. The victory over Hartford (0-1) gives the defending national runners-up two double-digit wins, one more than they had in all of 2012.

But the Terps aren’t celebrating and don’t seem content simply starting the season well.

“You don’t put as much into the early season games as you do to the games later on because teams are going to evolve,” coach John Tillman said. “To come out and start fast and win two games is great, but now we have to continue to improve and address some areas.”

The team’s sobering attitude after a blistering start to the season could be a product of recognizing its next opponent: No. 1 Loyola. It didn’t take long after polishing off the Hawks for the Terps to shift their focus to the team that beat them in last season’s national championship game.

“We wanted to start the season off well and I think we have,” Blye said. “But we got to continue to build on that because our schedule is going to get a little tougher next week.”

By the time the Terps boarded the bus ride home from Hartford, they already had a collective idea of what will be important for them to continue that success.

“Staying hungry,” midfielder John Haus said. “In the past few years we’d go on a little winning streak, but then the next game we’d not come out with the same energy and passion and focus that we needed to come out with.”

That focus and hunger has been present early on.

Tillman said the results against Hartford and Mount St. Mary’s aren’t critical, though. The focus during the Terps’ first two games was preparing for another run at a national championship.

And that’s where the early leads and easy victories may not be so beneficial. Sure, a fast start may have been crucial to the team’s success on Saturday. But two insurmountable halftime leads mean the Terps haven’t been tested yet. They haven’t had to sweat during a game’s key moments.

At some point soon — likely on Saturday — the Terps may find themselves in a closely contested thriller. Are they ready for it?

“There’s a couple different ways to look at it. One is if you get some really close, competitive games early, you know that will get you ready,” Tillman said. “The other is you get some wins, some confidence and you get into a rhythm. That can be a positive thing, too.”