Maryland men’s lacrosse looks ahead to another great season
By Chris McManes
University of Maryland men’s lacrosse coach John Tillman has a team that can compete for the national championship. The Terrapins lost the title last year by a goal, and Tillman doesn’t want his players to think they have to win it for the season to be a success.
“I’ve been around long enough not to get caught up in that mindset [where] it’s winning or nothing,” said Tillman, now in his 12th year at Maryland. “If that was the case, we wouldn’t make our kids go to class, we wouldn’t discipline them when they do things wrong. We would just try to win that game.
“As educators, we’re failing our kids if that’s really our main focus.”
The Terps finished 15-1 in 2021 and won the Big 10 regular-season and tournament championships. After defeating Duke, 14-5, in the Final Four, they lost the national title to Virginia, 17-16.
Maryland was ranked preseason No. 2 this year by Inside Lacrosse. The publication named eight Terps preseason All-American: Brett Makar and Roman Puglise (first team); Logan Wisnauskas, Jonathan Donville and Kyle Long (second team); and Owen Prybylski and Logan McNaney (honorable mention).
The Terrapins have to replace Jared Bernhardt, the program’s all-time leader in goals (202) and points (290). In 2022, he tallied a school-record 99 points and 71 goals and won the Tewaaraton Award as the nation’s top player. In addition to helping Maryland capture the national crown in 2017, he played quarterback last year at Ferris State and led the Bulldogs to the Division II national championship.
Wisnauskas, a fifth-year senior attackman, is the leading returning scorer. He had a team-high 31 assists a year ago along with 41 goals for 72 points. Tillman has been calling him a pro for years.
“He’s focused, he’s purposeful, he takes care of his body, he takes no shortcuts, he’s dialed in every day,” Tillman said “He holds himself to a really high standard. When he doesn’t reach that, he feels like he didn’t go to the level he wanted. So that means more work.
“He’s a guy who’s never really satisfied, and that’s what I love about him. He does everything well … and is a great role model for our younger players.”
Junior attack Daniel Maltz and senior midfielder Kyle Long also return on offense. Maltz produced 50 points, including 40 goals, and Long had 28 assists and 44 points.
Donville, a graduate transfer midfielder from Cornell, didn’t play last season after the Ivy League canceled its season. In just five games in 2020, he had 13 goals and seven assists. Tillman doesn’t picture his squad being as dependent on one player for offensive firepower as it was with Bernhardt.
“This year we’re built a little more by committee, which I think is harder to defend,” he said. “If you’re giving one guy more attention, other guys will get points. And I think it’s a lot trickier to prepare for because the ball’s not in one guy’s stick the whole time.”
Makar heads up the Terrapin defense. The junior from Yorktown Heights, N.Y., was second on the 2021 team in ground balls (48) and fourth in caused turnovers (15). He was named second-team All-American.
A pair of juniors, Gavin Tygh and Luke Wierman, are expected to split time in the faceoff circle. Tygh has bragging rights in the Maryland locker room because he transferred from Virginia.
McNaney returns in goal after starting all 16 contests. The junior allowed 9.89 goals per game and had a 52.2 save percentage.
In addition to their Big 10 schedule, the Terps will play preseason No. 1 Virginia, No. 8 Loyola (Md.), Syracuse (No. 12) and Notre Dame (No. 5).
“We know that every week we’re going to be challenged with top-notch competition from around the country,” Makar said. “It really is a journey. There’s going to be highs and lows during the year. It’s not always going to go as planned and perfect, but that’s what having great leadership allows you to do — kind of maintain a balance and keep looking ahead to the next opponent.”
Makar said it’s important for the Terps not to jump ahead to the Final Four, but to play each game as it comes along. However, the disappointment of not finishing as undefeated national champs still lingers.
“It definitely is a motivating factor,” he said. “When you end the season like that, you have that sour taste in your mouth. You’re really looking forward to having that next game under your belt and kind of setting the tone for the season, and eventually getting back to the point where we were last year.”
Tillman wants his players to know that if they don’t win the national championship, they can take several other positives from the season and their careers.
“Yeah, we all want to win that last game [and] we know it’s really hard,” he said. “If the kids have a great experience, they’ve learned more about themselves, and they’re more prepared for life if they have great friends, they’ve represented Maryland really well, they’ve learned to handle adversity, they’ve gotten good job opportunities — there’s a lot of win in there.”
Chris McManes (mick-maynz) is a University of Maryland graduate.