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No. 2 Maryland men’s lacrosse vs. High Point preview

The Terps open up their 2022 season in College Park.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Lacrosse season is finally upon us.

Maryland men’s lacrosse enters the 2022 season ranked No. 2 nationally and a unanimous selection as preseason favorites in the Big Ten.

It returns seven USILA All-Americans from last season’s roster and has several talented newcomers. History gives Maryland the edge headed into its first game of 2022, as it has won 28 straight season openers.

Maryland head coach John Tillman expressed his excitement to get the season started and play in front of the fans at Maryland Stadium, saying that he was ready “to look up and see fans and Terp nation there, and [see] everybody like who loves lacrosse and loves Maryland lacrosse be able to be together.”

Maryland hosts High Point on Saturday, Feb. 5 at noon in College Park. It will be Maryland’s first nonconference regular season game in nearly two years, and the Terps are 4-0 all-time against the Panthers.

The game will be on Big Ten Network Plus.

High Point Panthers (0-0)

2021 Record: 8-6, 4-1 SoCon

Jon Torpey enters his 10th season as High Point’s head coach, the first and only head coach of the program. This year’s team has a chance to be one of his best, favored to repeat as SoCon champions in the 2022 Preseason Southern Conference Coaches Poll. Torpey is not afraid of competition, loading his team’s schedule with all four teams from last season’s Final Four in Maryland, Virginia, Duke and North Carolina.

High Point enters 2022 with some momentum after a successful 2021 season. The Panthers won the SoCon regular season and tournament championship, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the program’s nine-year history. Five of the team’s six losses came to opponents ranked in the top-10, including a 16-10 loss against No. 2 Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Players to watch

Asher Nolting, fifth-year attacker, No. 32 — Nolting is the biggest weapon the Panthers have on attack and probably their best overall player. He was named a preseason third-team All-American by Inside Lacrosse and preseason All-Southern Conference. In 2021, Nolting had 27 goals and 45 assists, which made him a Tewaaraton Award nominee. He has recorded a point in every game in his college career.

Hunter Vines, senior midfielder, No. 5 — Vines has been a staple in High Point’s midfield since his freshman year in 2019. He plays a balanced game, scoring 14 goals and registering 12 assists in 2021. Vines was named preseason All-Southern Conference. He scored two goals against Maryland on Feb. 1, 2020.

Brayden Mayea, sophomore attacker, No. 55 — Brayden Mayea burst onto the scene with a sensational freshman season in 2021, finishing second on the team with 37 goals. His 37 tallies were the second-most by a freshman in the country last year and he finished 19th in scoring average, recording 2.64 goals per game. Mayea was named All-Southern Conference last season.

Strength

Attacking play. High Point has substantial talent on the offensive end, returning key players from last year’s team that ranked 18th nationally in goals per game. The Panthers return three of their top four point scorers from last season’s team that scored double-digit goals in all but one game. Expect Nolting and Mayea to be the focal points of their offensive attack and pose a challenge for Maryland’s defense. Maryland defenseman Brett Makar noted the challenge.

“With a team like High Point, there’s so much talent out there,” Makar said.

Weakness

Defense. Contrary to its firepower on offense, High Point’s defense is likely the team’s weakest unit. They ranked 53rd nationally in goals allowed per game in 2021. They caused 30 fewer turnovers than their opponents and only return two players that started more than 12 games on defense last season. Maryland has had historical success against High Point’s defense, scoring 23 goals against the Panthers in 2020. High Point was also the last team Maryland was able to take 70 shots against in a single game.

Three things to watch

1. A new No. 1 for Maryland. Fifth-year attacker Logan Wisnauskas will wear the storied No. 1 jersey for the Terps this season, taking over from graduated attacker Jared Bernhardt. Wisnauskas is the team’s highest returning scorer after scoring 41 goals and having 31 assists last season.

“[Logan] does everything well. He can play with the ball, without the ball, he can play inside, he can play outside, he rides well, and he makes great decisions. So he’s a great role model for our younger players,” Tillman said.

High Point should be familiar with Wisnauskas, as he had six goals and an assist in the teams’ 2020 matchup.

2. Will High Point stay disciplined? If High Point wants to pull off the upset Saturday, it is going to need to stay disciplined. Its man-down defense ranked fourth-worst in the country in 2021, allowing goals 50% of the time. One of the reasons High Point was successful last season was its ability to have fewer penalties than its opponents, while Maryland had just as many penalties committed as penalties drawn. While the Terrapins’ man-up offense was only slightly above average last season, they have enough talent on the offensive end to take advantage of the Panthers if they have a man advantage. Maryland scored five extra-man goals at High Point in 2018.

3. Face-offs. Without graduated FOGO Justin Shockey, Maryland will look to junior Luke Wierman to handle the bulk of the face-offs in 2022. Wierman split time with Shockey in 2021, and after a strong finish to the season will be expected to take the next step as the team’s primary option on face-offs. Tillman expressed his confidence in him.

“Luke Wierman was a really nice surprise for us last year… But now if you’re the guy that’s different. Now you have to be the guy, and I think the transition for him, I feel like his confidence is up. His skill set is up. His ability, he just keeps evolving,” Tillman said.

Gavin Tygh, a junior transfer from Virginia, will also see time in the rotation with Wierman.