For teams coming off an upset victory, there’s often concern for an imminent letdown, a great high followed by a devastating low. And Terrapins men’s lacrosse coach John Tillman is not different.
The Terps traveled to then-No. 1 Syracuse last weekend, putting on a dominant performance at the Carrier Dome in an eventual 16-8 victory. Their offense rolled and the defense was stout in front of goalkeeper Niko Amato against one of the nation’s top offenses.
Despite the lopsided affair, Tillman understands it’s still early in a long season, and he refuses to allow his players to become complacent. Each game presents its own unique challenges, and though the win over the Orange cemented the No. 2 Terps as a national title contender, Tillman knows it must be forgotten once the opening whistle blows tomorrow afternoon against No. 1 Duke at Byrd Stadium.
“We’ve really emphasized the importance of staying grounded, realizing how hard they’ve worked to be successful and the fact that the ball did bounce our way a little bit [against Syracuse],” Tillman said Wednesday. “This week will definitely not be like that.”
The defending national champion Blue Devils boast one of the most talented rosters in the country. Attackman Jordan Wolf is tied for second nationally with 19 points through four games this season. Josh Dionne (10 goals) and Case Matheis (six goals) round out the attack, while Deemer Class (six goals) leads the midfield.
“Duke is a great team,” said Charlie Raffa, junior faceoff specialist for the Terps. “Hopefully, we’ll just keep developing as an offense, keep developing as a defense and at the faceoff X.”
Raffa — who has won more than 67 percent of his faceoffs through three games this season — will have a much tougher challenge tomorrow against the Blue Devils than he did against the Orange, though. Duke midfielder Brendan Fowler is also one of the top faceoff specialists in the country, and he has led Duke to the ninth-best faceoff win percentage in the country (.653).
A majority of the Terps offense against Syracuse came off faceoff wins from Raffa and the ensuing fast break opportunities. Raffa scored two goals himself — the first multigoal game of his career — but he likely will not produce the same number of chances when he matches up with Fowler.
“Our concern is that [Syracuse] still got eight goals, and we really had an advantage with the time of possession,” Tillman said. “Eight goals is too many. So we’ve got to clean some things up and we have to play better. We’ve made them well aware of that.”
The Terps have been in similar situations in recent seasons. Two years ago, they defeated then-No. 8 Duke, 10-7, in College Park to open ACC play. Three days later, they fell to unranked UMBC in Baltimore by one goal.
Tillman said he reminded his players of that specific setback this week in practice, knowing his team will need an even better showing than it had against Syracuse if it stands a chance at securing wins against top-ranked opponents in back-to-back games.
“You’ve got to push the reset button and you start all over again,” Tillman said. “If anything, you have to play that much harder and better because people will start scouting you and preparing and take away some things that you’re doing. And if you don’t stay ahead of the curve, I think that you fall behind.”