U.S. Survives Thriller with NCAA Champion Maryland in Fall Classic Opener

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Team USA Blue's Rob Pannell scored a goal and added an assist in his team's 10-9 thrilling win over Maryland.


The U.S. national team, at least a portion of the 49-player training team, got a big test on Saturday night in the opening game of the Team USA Fall Classic. It was the first time the national team had matched up against another squad since January against Notre Dame, and this time it met the defending NCAA champion Maryland Terrapins.

The Terps, fresh off winning their first NCAA title in 40 years, were just weeks into the fall season when they battled Team USA Blue — a split-squad comprised of former Maryland stars like Michael Ehrhardt, Drew Snider, Joe Walters and the Bernhardt brothers. However, coach John Tillman and his team gave Team USA Blue all it could handle on Tierney Field in front of a packed house.

Team USA Blue jumped out to an early four-goal lead, but dealt with a Maryland team that refused to go away throughout the night. The Terps eventually tied the game at 9-9 with 9:09 remaining in the fourth quarter on an unusual long-distance goal from LSM Nicholas Brozowski, but Team USA Blue’s Snider ripped the game-winner past Terps’ goalie Cameron Brosh to help his team salvage the 10-9 victory.

It wasn't the dominant performance that some may have expected, nor the 16-11 result against Notre Dame Spring Premiere. It was a nail-biter, but that’s fine by U.S. national team coach John Danowski.

“Guys held up well against a very prepared and well coached college team,” Danowski said. “It was great that they were pushed. It was great that they learned to play in tight games together. … They are the national champions and they looked like it tonight.”

Danowski said that Maryland’s patient offense, led by U.S. training team member Connor Kelly and U.S. U19 star Jared Bernhardt, helped his defense acclimate to what it could see come the 2018 FIL Championships. Longer possessions could be a fixture of FIL play, with no shot clock present.

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Maryland coach John Tillman with his former players that suited up for Team USA Blue.

Much of the Team USA Blue defense came into the game accustomed to the 60-second shot clock from its MLL experience. That required an in-game mental adjustment to deal with defending the Terps for long periods of time.

“We’re still trying to find ourselves as Team USA, so that style of play lends itself to the college kids more, being organized and playing a methodical pace,” said Jesse Bernhardt, who was hired as a Maryland assistant in July. “Our defense is looking around like ‘When’s the whistle going to blow?’”

But when the Bernhardts and the rest of the Team USA Blue defense needed stops late in the game, it came up with them. Despite a second-half rally from Jared Bernhardt, who had two of his three goals during a 4-0 run, Team USA Blue found a way to win.

Tillman said his team’s three weeks of practice in the fall season helped against that version of the U.S. national team, which was meeting for the first time in just over a month.







“They’re so talented, but when you have three weeks together … that’s definitely an advantage that they didn’t have,” Tillman said. “Certainly, they have great players, but still, there’s a reason why you practice as a team and you go over things. If they had three weeks of practice and we had three weeks of practice, my gut tells me it would be a different story.”

What fans saw on the offensive side of the field were flashes of what could be a lethal U.S. attack come next summer. Three players — Matt Danowski, Rob Pannell and Jordan Wolf, had multiple goals — evidence of Team USA Blue’s ability to spread the ball around to create high-percentage shots, a handful of which hit the pipe or were saved by the strong goalie play out of Brosh and Dan Morris.

Five players also recorded assists in a balanced offense, including two assists from Paul Rabil and Tom Schreiber.

“We hits some pipes, we moved the ball, we hit the goalie,” Danowski said of his offense’s occasional misfortune. “Our guys haven’t played lacrosse in five weeks, so it’s not easy. You can’t just put your sticks on the field and dominate. There needs to be some sort of that, otherwise it would be no fun.”

The rest of the 49-player training team will look to build off of Saturday’s thriller tomorrow in a matchup with 2017 final four member Towson. That game is set for 2 p.m. at Tierney Field.

Jared Bernhardt’s Emergence

Playing against his brothers, although seldom directly, Maryland sophomore Jared Bernhardt gave glimpses of what he could provide for the Terps’ offense. Bernhardt, a middie last season who could be a fixture on attack in 2018, scored a hat trick out of that position.

“Jared did such a good job for us last year and we played him a little out of position,” Tillman said. “This year, he feels a little more comfortable making plays and being aggressive, and we told him we’re going to need him to do that.”

A Mora Playing Lacrosse?

The Mora family — Jim Mora Sr. and Jr., has made its name in the football world. Jim Mora Sr., former coach of the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, and Jim Mora Jr., current head coach of UCLA, combine for one of the more well-known father-son duos in football.

As for the next generation in the Mora family tree? Ryder Mora chose lacrosse, and took the field as a freshman midfielder for Maryland.

“It was a thrill, just to see this whole team play with the best in the world and compete with them and to see your boy out there,” said Jim Mora Jr., whose Bruins had a bye week. “It was pretty fun. The thing that makes me the happiest is that he’s with a great program and Coach Tillman.”

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