There hasn’t been an undefeated Division I men’s lacrosse champion since 2006; Maryland coach John Tillman weighs his team’s chances and explains that there’s another reason they want to keep winning.
The Maryland men’s lacrosse team is playing for the present, future, and past this Championship Weekend.
The current stars and starters in the lineup are looking to finish the Terps’ first Division I unbeaten season in 15 years; the understudies on this roster will look to use the experience of the Final Four to help them in future seasons, and the former players who have produced nine of the program’s 28 Final Fours will be watching.
And while the team is focused first and foremost on Saturday’s matchup against the Princeton Tigers, this will be a special weekend for the larger family of alumni and former players making the trek to Pratt and Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, in East Hartford, Connecticut.
“To get Maryland — our program and our team — to Championship Weekend, that means our alums can go, our fans can go,” coach John Tillman said. “It’s a great thing to be able to offer up.”
Maryland is ranked No. 1 in the nation; they’re 16-0 and have the best offense in Division I, with 18.5 goals per game. Tillman has a ton of experience on his roster, with his top five scorers either fifth-year (COVID exemption) or graduate students. It’s a group that knows how to play together and do the little things that loom large.
“Selfless parts — guys sharing the ball knowing you can get it back,” Tillman said. “I’d be crazy if I didn’t mention our ability to clear the ball well, our ability on ground balls.”
They’re led by First Team All-American attacker Logan Wisnauskas (55 goals and 40 assists).
“He’s just so darn consistent. Every day it’s laser-focused,” Tillman said. “Just every single thing matters to him — like every pass, making sure it’s a good pass, getting those ground balls, getting our team organized.”
It’s been said that possession is nine-tenths of the law, and that translates to college lacrosse. Terps faceoff specialist Luke Wierman also earned First Team All-American honors, and his growth has helped turn the offense from dangerous to dominant.
“I’m not sure a lot of people could have anticipated” Wierman’s development, Tillman said. “It would be hard for us to say he would go from 45% (faceoffs won) to 66 in one year. I haven’t seen anything like it in 30 years. A credit to him and all the wing guys.”
The Terps allowed the fourth-fewest goals in Division I, with short-stick defensive midfielder Roman Puglise and defenseman Brett Makar being voted First Team All-American.
When did Makar know this team was special?
“Day One,” the senior said. “Really, once we got back (from holiday break) in January. You really saw a different type of focus from this group, putting the blinders on all year.”
They’ll have their hands full with Princeton. The Tigers’ offense ranked fifth-best in the nation. They met in February, and while the Terrapins won, it was a tough one.
“I didn’t feel like the last time we played them we played our best defensive game,” Tillman said. “They got good looks; we gotta be more on point.”
They have a strong defense too, the coach added: “They don’t like to slide, so we’re gonna have to win some matchups and finish. Their goalie had 19 saves last time, and we gotta do a better job putting the ball in the back of the net.”
There hasn’t been an unbeaten national champion in Division I since Virginia went 17-0 in 2006. And even though this team has that opportunity, Tillman said what’s really driving them is simply the chance to earn more practices and another 60 minutes of game-time on the field to be together.
“They’re just connected, and they enjoy being with each other,” the coach said. “So as much as it’s winning and competition, it’s [also] ‘Hey we gotta keep this thing going because if not we’re not gonna be together and it’s all over.’ So there’s that much more motivation.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism