No. 1 Maryland men’s lacrosse is coming off of a significant 17-9 win over No. 4 Rutgers. Fifth-year attacker Logan Wisnauskas captured headlines by breaking the program’s career points record, but Saturday was yet another showcase of the team’s balance.
Junior faceoff specialist Luke Wierman was once again dominant and won 21 faceoffs, his second game this season with at least 20 faceoff wins. Graduate attacker Keegan Khan led all players with six points, while sophomore attacker Eric Malever and graduate midfielder Jonathan Donville followed with five points each. The defense was outstanding, mostly silencing one of the nation’s best offenses, aided by 12 saves from junior goalie Logan McNaney.
Even with a 10-0 record, Maryland head coach John Tillman is unwilling to listen to the hype.
“We know we’ve got a big bullseye on our back and we just have to make sure we come focused and ready,” Tillman said. “If there’s a game where we’re not [focused] or we don’t play good lacrosse, we’re super vulnerable. Everybody is.”
For their last regular season home game, the Terps will host Ohio State on Saturday with an opportunity to win the Big Ten regular-season championship and clinch the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Maryland is 11-3 all-time against the Buckeyes, including two wins last season. This will be Maryland’s seventh game this season against a team that has spent time ranked in the top 10.
Saturday’s game will be senior defenseman Brett Makar’s last regular season home game.
“[I] definitely want to make the most of it anytime we’re playing at home, and this one’s the last one for the regular season,” Makar said. “Even more of a reason to come out firing on Saturday.”
The game is set to start at 4 p.m. and will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.
No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-3, 2-1 Big Ten)
2021 record: 4-7 (4-6 Big Ten)
Nick Myers is in his 14th season as head coach at Ohio State and has been responsible for some of the most successful seasons in school history. Myers’ most accomplished team was his 2017 squad, which won 16 games and advanced all the way to the program’s first NCAA national championship game appearance before falling 9-6 to Maryland. After four straight winning seasons, Ohio State had a down year in 2021 but has rebounded and is back in the NCAA tournament conversation this season.
Ohio State currently sits at 8-3, with all three losses coming against teams ranked in the top 20. Impressive back-to-back wins against North Carolina and Harvard propelled the Buckeyes to as high as No. 5 in the USILA Coaches Poll, but they lost two of their next three games (albeit to quality opponents in Cornell and Denver). After falling 17-8 in their first Big Ten game against Rutgers, Ohio State has rattled off two straight conference victories against Penn State and Johns Hopkins. They currently sit right on the edge of the bubble for the NCAA tournament, and an upset win against Maryland would most likely lock up a spot in the postseason for the Buckeyes.
Players to watch
Jack Myers, senior attacker, No. 2 — A native of Bethesda, Maryland, Jack Myers made his mark early at Ohio State. Myers was the team leader in assists both as a freshman and as a sophomore, and led the Buckeyes in goals last season. With 26 goals and a team-high 31 assists, he currently leads the team in points and has been named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week twice. Myers has 10 points in his last two games and is the quarterback of Ohio State’s offense.
Jackson Reid, senior midfielder, No. 29. — Reid is in his fifth season at Ohio State, and is having his most productive year yet. He has scored at least 25 points in every season he’s been in Columbus and has topped his previous personal-best in 2022 with 43 points through 11 games. Reid has had six points in four of his last six games, including a five-goal performance against Johns Hopkins last week, earning him Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors. He is second on the team in goals with 29 this season.
Justin Inacio, senior faceoff specialist, No. 30 — Justin Inacio earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Big Ten co-Specialist of the Year in 2018 and 2019, respectively, and is still one of the conference’s best faceoff specialists. He ranks eighth nationally in faceoff winning percentage this season at .613, the third-highest mark in the Big Ten. His best performance in 2021 came against Maryland, where he won 19 faceoffs and scooped 11 ground balls. Last month, he set the Ohio State record for career faceoffs won. Maryland’s faceoff specialist Luke Wierman has arguably been the nation’s most impactful faceoff specialist in 2022, and he’ll have his hands full with an experienced opponent in Inacio.
“I feel like Justin has been there forever,” Tillman said. “[He’s] a terrific player. And he’s been doing it consistently against everybody, ourselves included.”
Connor Cmiel, sophomore short-stick defensive midfielder, No. 8 — Cmiel recently missed two games with an injury but returned last week against Johns Hopkins. As one of the best short-stick defensive midfielders in the nation, the Buckeyes welcomed Cmiel back with open arms and will need a big performance from him to slow down the Terps on Saturday. He has picked up 24 ground balls in nine games this season and was an honorable mention for Inside Lacrosse’s Midseason All-American teams.
Man-up offense. Ohio State is tied for 10th nationally in scoring offense, and they are one of, if not the best at taking advantage of their opponents’ mistakes. The Buckeyes are the second-most efficient man-up offense in the country, only trailing Notre Dame. They score over 61% of the time that their opponent takes a penalty. The Terps ranked 58th in man-down defense, giving a possible area for Ohio State to exploit. Penalties haven’t become a major issue for Maryland yet, but if they aren’t disciplined those mistakes could result in goals for the Buckeyes.
Defensive consistency. Statistically, Ohio State is a middle-of-the-pack defensive team. They allow 10.73 goals per game. According to Lacrosse Reference, they are the 32nd-most efficient defensive team in the country with major variability in their play. The Buckeyes have played five games where their defensive efficiency was reminiscent of a top-20 defensive unit by holding opponents under 25% offensive efficiency. However, they have also played six games where they have played with the defensive efficiency of a team ranked approximately 60th nationally (allowing opponents to have an offensive efficiency over 30%). Facing the highest-scoring team in the country, Ohio State will need a strong defensive performance to avoid playing from behind.
Three things to watch
1. Wing play. Maryland senior long-stick midfielder John Geppert was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after another strong performance, picking up five ground balls and playing a key part in the team only allowing nine goals to one of the top offensive units in Rutgers. Geppert, graduate midfielder Roman Puglise, graduate defender Owen Prybylski and fifth-year midfielder Bubba Fairman have all been fantastic picking up ground balls on the wings and securing key faceoff wins for the Terps. They will face a difficult matchup this week against Ohio State.
“We’ve gotten good wing play. Those guys have been really good all year. So we’re going to need that again this week,” Tillman said.
2. Crowded stat sheets. Both Maryland and Ohio State have had a multitude of players register points this season. The Terps have had 10 separate goal scorers in five games this season, and the Buckeyes have 10 players with at least seven points. Maryland’s defensive depth has made it difficult for opponents to get much going on offense, but if Ohio State is able to share the ball and play selflessly, there could be a lot of players that register points on Saturday.
3. The spring weather. With the exception of the game against Virginia at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., the Terps have not played in a single game this year that started with the temperature being over 60 degrees. Forecasts expect temperatures to hover around 70 degrees on Saturday, giving the game a true late-season feel. Makar feels that the warmer weather gives the defense, and especially goalie Logan McNaney, an extra boost.
“The last few games that you kind of see the seasons turn a little bit, you’re getting those warmer temperatures, [Logan’s] almost unscorable on… I know that’s been beneficial for him and that helps our defense out a lot,” Makar said.