COLLEGE PARK - Peter Hilgartner, Maryland's junior attackman, recorded his first hat trick of the season yesterday at Byrd Stadium. But Hilgartner, like most of his Terrapins teammates, was not celebrating as much as he was sighing with relief after No. 2 Maryland stayed unbeaten with a 9-6 victory over unranked Cornell.
What's not to like about a 4-0 start? Based on yesterday's uneven performance, the Terps have some cause for concern, particularly on offense.
The Terps, who did not scare too many defenses during their improbable march to the NCAA championship game last year, are still waiting to explode in 1996. Yesterday, they spotted the Big Red a 3-0 lead before Maryland's dependable defense, led by All-America senior goalie Brian Dougherty and junior David LaChapelle, restored order by holding Cornell (1-2) to three goals over the game's final 49 minutes.
That gave Maryland's offense plenty of time to pick up the slack, and the Terps took their sweet time doing it. They did not catch Cornell until Hilgartner ripped a shot off goalie Michael LaRocco's stick to forge a 3-3 tie with 3: 28 left in the first half. Then, after falling 4-3 behind at the break, Maryland responded with four unanswered goals three out of its extra-man attack to take control by the end of the third quarter.
The Terps have averaged a modest 10 goals per game and allowed just under six.
"We've gotten used to being down early and have had to come back. We don't want to make it a habit," said Hilgartner, who started the third-quarter flurry with an unassisted score.
"Our defense kept us in the game pretty much in the first half," he said. "Our defense is unbelievable, but we need to go out there and let those guys [on defense] rely on us for a change. We're ranked No. 2, and we don't deserve to be there right now."
Maryland weathered a ragged first half, before finding some offensive flow. The Terps spent the opening half taking ill-advised shots from poor angles, and looking to make one-on-one moves instead of the extra pass against Cornell's man-to-man alignment. Terps sophomore attackman Matt Hahn was even in danger of being shut out for the first time.
Not to worry. Seconds after Cornell midfielder Bryan Younge was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, leaving the Terps in an extra-man situation, Hahn scored from point-blank range to give Maryland its first lead, 5-4, with 5: 20 left in the third period. Hahn added another goal on a put-back early in the fourth quarter, giving Maryland an 8-5 lead.
At that point, the Big Red was a tiring bunch. Maryland, which used three midfield and two attack units, wore down Cornell with a 30-player rotation.
"Everyone was a little tense early, including myself, especially when we weren't making our shots," Hahn said. "We talked a lot about offensive things at halftime, like moving the ball and making the extra pass. I don't think much about the rankings until May."
The Terps improved their March record in the past three seasons to 15-2, and the games will become more crucial and difficult soon. After facing Radford on Wednesday, Maryland will encounter North Carolina, Virginia and Johns Hopkins over the next four weeks.
"We're a pro team this week," said Maryland coach Dick Edell, alluding to the school's spring break. "There's no limitations on our practice time, and we've got to take advantage of it. We're not playing as well as I think we can play. But it's still nice to be looking at 4-0."
Pub Date: 3/17/96