- The Washington Times
Monday, May 30, 2022

Simply by being in the state of Maryland, the success of the Terrapins’ lacrosse programs is sometimes assumed.

Maryland is considered one of the top hotbeds in lacrosse recruiting, and College Park’s proximity to Howard, Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties — among others — gives the Terrapins a leg up on garnering the top talent in central Maryland. 

“Kids want to go someplace where lacrosse is important,” Maryland men’s lacrosse coach John Tillman said during his team’s media day before the NCAA Final Four. “You’re going to get great crowds here and play great schedules. It’s a little different than at some of the other schools. Almost everybody in our state knows what lacrosse is.”

But, of course, success is far from guaranteed, especially in the highly competitive NCAA Tournament. The Terrapin men are well aware of that challenge, losing in five championship games between 2011 and 2021.

On Monday, though, Tillman and Maryland completed an undefeated season, defeating Cornell 9-7 to win its fourth NCAA title and second in the last six years.  The Terrapins (18-0) set an NCAA record for most wins in a season without a loss, becoming the first undefeated team since Virginia in 2006. Maryland is 33-1 in the last two seasons, with the lone loss coming in the 2021 championship against the Cavaliers.

“All I wanted to do was see these kids not crying this year,” Maryland coach John Tillman said Monday in reference to last season’s title game. “Last year to see the tears, I feel so bad for guys like Nick Grill or Jared Bernhardt and all the seniors last year that didn’t get this chance. Our guys were focused all year long and I give them a lot of credit.”

Seventeen of the Terrapins’ 48 players are Maryland natives. The most important among them is Boys Latin graduate Logan Wisnauskas, a fifth-year senior who is one of the top players in the nation. Wisnauskas, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 Premier Lacrosse League Draft, ranked second in the country with 3.44 goals per game prior to the Final Four and helped lead the Terrapins with two goals and two assists in the championship game. He became the first Terrapin to record 100 points in a season, breaking Bernhardt’s record of 99 last season.

But the key to the Terrapins’ national title is more about Tillman’s out-of-state recruiting than his ability to convince in-state players to stay home. Nearly 75% of Maryland’s goals and assists this season came from out-of-state players, including the game-high five points that San Diego, California, native Anthony DeMaio collected in the title game. 

“If you look at a lot of the big schools, they’re in areas where not every high school has lacrosse,” Tillman said. “This state, almost everybody has it. It’s part of the history of this state, part of the culture. It’s special that what you’re passionate about, everybody on campus knows what it is. … It is unique, and for us we’ve attracted a lot of kids from out of the state. It has helped us for kids outside the state, as well as kids in state.”

The women’s team, meanwhile, also has a large contingent of Maryland-based players, as 22 of coach Cathy Reese’s 36 players are home grown. 

When Abby Bosco was growing up in New York, she looked at Maryland as the pinnacle of women’s lacrosse. After spending four years at Penn, Bosco transferred to College Park for her final season. 

“My middle and high school days were when Maryland was winning all these national championships,” Bosco said. “As a little girl, you want to go to Maryland. If you’re going to Maryland, you’re one of the best players in the country.”

Unlike the men, though, the Terrapin women didn’t have the same success in the Final Four — their 28th appearance in history — after allowing four consecutive goals in the final minutes to fall to Boston College in the semifinals.

Despite the women losing, this year’s Final Four was the ninth time in the last 12 years that both Terrapin programs were in the semifinals together.

While the men’s team won a national title in 2017, the ultimate crown has been elusive for Tillman’s squad. The Terrapins lost in the championship game five times in the span of 10 completed seasons — 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016 and 2021. 

The top-seeded Terrapins got over the hump in this year’s title despite a late run by Cornell. Wisnauskas, DeMaio and Kyle Long spearheaded Maryland’s No. 1 scoring offense to give the Terrapins a 9-2 lead, while Logan McNaney and the defense stymied No. 7 Cornell’s attack that surged late. 

DeMaio led all players with four goals and added an assist, and Long added three helpers on top of Wisnauskas’ four-point performance. McNaney saved 17 of the 24 shots sent his way and kept the Big Red at bay in the final two quarters, preventing a comeback as Maryland’s attack went cold and didn’t score in the final 26:55 of the contest. 

“(McNaney) was great,” Tillman told ESPN after the win. “We needed him today. We were not great offensively.”

Wisnauskas scored his 60th goal of the season, while the Terrapins’ final score put them at 204 assists for the year to break Albany’s NCAA record of 203 set in 2015. 

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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