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Maryland's Logan McNaney.

Maryland Comeback Spurs Jump in USA Lacrosse D-I Men's Top 20

April 1, 2024
Patrick Stevens
Rich Barnes

Maryland last opened conference play with two losses in 2011. The time before that was 1993. And before that … well, never.

So, the Terrapins aren’t accustomed to staring up out of an early hole — a threat that was all too real when they trailed by five in the first half Sunday night at Penn State.

Instead, Maryland closed within four by halftime and three after three quarters before rattling off six consecutive goals in a 13-11 defeat of the Nittany Lions, the sort of result that could significantly change the Terps’ fortunes.

In the short term, Maryland bounced back into the top 10 a week after dropping its Big Ten opener to Michigan instead of sinking deeper into the teens. But in the long term, the Terps now own a pair of high-profile road victories (Penn State and Syracuse) and aren’t all but consigned to the opening weekend of the conference tournament.

That fate could still befall Maryland, but it gets its next two at home (Ohio State and Rutgers) before closing the regular season at Johns Hopkins. Win out, and it earns a bye into the league semifinals. Win out and get a Michigan loss in the next three weeks, and the Terps are the league’s No. 1 seed.

But most importantly, a season that seemed to be teetering after back-to-back losses to Virginia and Michigan and a significant early deficit Sunday night in Happy Valley looks a whole lot different.


1. Notre Dame, 6-1 (Prev: 1)
2. Virginia, 9-1 (Prev: 3)
3. Army, 8-1 (Prev: 4)
4. Duke, 10-2 (Prev: 6)
5. Penn State, 7-2 (Prev: 2)
6. Johns Hopkins, 7-3 (Prev: 7)
7. Georgetown, 7-2 (Prev: 8)
8. Maryland, 6-3 (Prev: 13)
9. Syracuse, 9-3 (Prev: 5)
10. Yale, 6-2 (Prev: 10)
11. Denver, 7-2 (Prev: 11)
12. Penn, 7-3 (Prev: 15)
13. Cornell, 5-3 (Prev: 9)
14. Princeton, 6-3 (Prev: 14)
15. Michigan, 6-4 (Prev: 12)
16. Boston U, 7-3 (Prev: 16)
17. Richmond, 6-4 (Prev: 19)
18. Harvard, 6-3 (Prev: 17)
19. Towson, 7-3 (Prev: NR)
20. North Carolina, 6-4 (Prev: 18)

Also considered (alphabetical order): Colgate (6-4), Delaware (5-3), Navy (6-4), Ohio State (6-5), Rutgers (6-4), Saint Joseph’s (6-3), Villanova (6-4)


Maryland (+5)

The Terps didn’t just need a victory at Penn State. They really needed to do it in the fashion they did it, particularly with a timely offensive burst in the 13-11 triumph.

This is not the Maryland of two years ago, and no one should expect it to be. But to uncork five goals in a little more than four minutes to open the fourth quarter — turning a 10-7 deficit into a 12-10 lead, both prodding the Nittany Lions’ defense and depositing some opportunistic chances — hinted at more than what the Terps had shown much of the season.

Penn (+3)

The Quakers sit alone atop the Ivy League after Cam Rubin scored the last of his six goals to close out an 11-10 double-overtime defeat of Cornell. It was quite the bookend to the month for Penn, which opened March with a water-logged upset of Duke on the road.

A 3-0 start to league play is impressive, but Penn has plenty of work ahead of it to lock up home-field advantage in the Ivy tournament. It still has visits to Yale and Princeton sandwiched around a home game against Harvard.


Cornell (-4)

But for a few breaks, the Big Red could be sitting at 7-1 and have defeats of Denver and Penn on the road to go with its victories over Princeton and Yale. But the double overtime loss at Franklin Field on Saturday was Cornell’s second one-goal setback, and it is the latest team to have trouble solving Penn goalie Emmet Carroll (17 saves).

Truth is, there isn’t a massive difference between the teams packed between around Nos. 10 and 14 (and Cornell is 2-2 against that group). It has a quick turnaround to face another team poking around the bottom of the top 10, as Syracuse arrives in Ithaca on Tuesday night.

Syracuse (-4)

The Orange’s five-game winning streak ended Saturday with a 14-12 stumble at Notre Dame. Which says more about Syracuse: That it was down 10-5 at halftime and 13-7 after three quarters, or that it managed to make things at least a little uncomfortable for the defending national champions?

Both resonate a bit. This result wasn’t unlike the Orange’s season finale last year at Duke, when it had a similar burst early in the fourth quarter to tighten things against an older team on the road. Syracuse hung around a bit longer this time.

All of it lines up with what much of this season has suggested: Syracuse could be on its way to skipping the step of getting a round or two into the NCAA tournament and instead making a deep run. It needs to continue to improve, but it’s getting closer.

Michigan (-3)

It was pretty simple for the Wolverines in their 15-11 loss at Johns Hopkins. They won 15 of the 18 faceoffs through the opening play of the third quarter and trailed 8-7 because they had 12 of their eventual 17 turnovers. Then Hopkins flipped possession, and Michigan didn’t score back-to-back goals in the final 37 minutes.

That’s a missed opportunity, but the Wolverines still split their first two conference games. They can get back on track with Rutgers coming to Ann Arbor on Sunday night.

Penn State (-3)

Too. Much. Time. On. Defense. It’s no mystery what happened to the Nittany Lions in the second half of their 13-11 loss to Maryland. The Terps’ Luke Wierman won 11 of 14 faceoffs after the break, and Penn State still managed to commit nine turnovers over the final 30 minutes.

Toss in a two-minute Maryland possession capped by a goal with a second left on the shot clock, and the Nittany Lions were just worn out at that end despite Jack Fracyon’s 16-save day.

Penn State still owns victories over Yale and Cornell and could add to that resume Saturday at Johns Hopkins. It isn’t a season-crushing result, but it does mean the Nittany Lions will need some help to claim the top seed in the Big Ten tournament again this spring.


Towson (No. 19)

Even if the Tigers sprayed shots all over the place in a 9-8 defeat of Stony Brook, they nose into the rankings ahead of alternate candidates Navy and Saint Joseph’s on the strength of having defeated both in non-conference play. Luke Downs made 11 saves for Towson on Saturday, including one with five seconds left to prevent overtime.

Towson has won three in a row and is tied for the CAA lead with Delaware. The two meet April 26 in Newark, a game that could well decide the league’s regular season champion.


Rutgers (was No. 20)

The Scarlet Knights have dropped three of four since a 5-1 start and managed just eight goals in each of the losses in that stretch. That includes Saturday’s 14-8 loss at home to Ohio State, which never trailed and led by at least two throughout the second half.

Rutgers now gets back-to-back road games at Michigan and Maryland before closing the regular season at home against Penn State. Even one more loss is likely to push the Scarlet Knights into the opening weekend of the Big Ten tournament.