After three full months of play, the most crucial month of the college lacrosse calendar has arrived. It’s May, and it’s time for the postseason.
The 2022 Big Ten Men’s Lacrosse Tournament started with quarterfinal games last Saturday, but top-seeded Maryland and No. 2-seed Rutgers enjoyed a week off after earning a bye to the semifinals. Now, the conference turns its attention to College Park, the site of this year’s semifinal and championship games.
“Ever since I’ve been here we’ve been on the road for every Big Ten tournament,” fifth-year midfielder Anthony DeMaio said. “Definitely pumped for the opportunity and pumped to see Terp nation tomorrow night.”
In their semifinal game, the Terps will play fourth-seeded Johns Hopkins for the second straight game, also playing the Blue Jays in the last game of the regular season on Apr. 23. The winner of that game will play the winner of Rutgers-Ohio State for the Big Ten Championship.
Maryland enters the tournament as heavy favorites after finishing the regular season without a blemish on its record. The Terps rolled through Big Ten play and have been the class of college lacrosse so far this season. After not playing for a week, they will get an opportunity to chase a conference title and fine-tune their play ahead of the NCAA tournament.
Thursday, May 5, 5:30 p.m., Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium
TV: Big Ten Network
Streaming: FOX Sports
How did they get here?
No. 1-seed Maryland Terrapins (12-0, 5-0 Big Ten)
The Terps entered the 2022 season with an argument for being the best team in the country and managed to wildly outperform those lofty expectations. Maryland has been ranked as the No. 1 team in the country for 11 consecutive weeks and has thoroughly dominated nearly every opponent all season long. This season, the Terps have won three times as many games by at least seven goals (9 games) than they have by fewer than five goals (3 games). They completed their second straight undefeated regular season and will almost certainly be the top seed in the NCAA tournament regardless of their performance this week.
Maryland kicked off its season with back-to-back home wins, coming in the season opener against High Point and against what was then-No. 8 Loyola.
A trip to the Carrier Dome proved to be difficult at times, but the Terps escaped with a four-goal win at Syracuse for the first of the team’s six wins away from home in 2022.
Another hard-fought win against Princeton was followed by what was the Terps’ toughest challenge all season long, a two-goal win at Notre Dame. The first goal of that game, scored by Notre Dame’s Griffin Westlin, was the first time that Maryland trailed in the season’s first five games.
After that game, the Terps kicked it up a notch and began to dismantle opponents with apparent ease. After the game was forced to be played early and moved indoors to Jones-Hill House due to icy conditions outside, Maryland blew out Albany, 24-6, the most goals that the team had scored since 1995.
The next week, Maryland made what some considered to be the best team in the country look like Albany did the week prior. In a rematch of last year’s national championship game, the top-ranked Terps thrashed No. 2 Virginia by 11. That game, played at Audi Field in Washington, D.C., was a statement win for Maryland.
“There is no question who the number one team in the country is right now,” Virginia head coach Lars Tiffany said after the game.
After finishing the non-conference schedule with a perfect 7-0 record, the Terps kept their momentum rolling into conference play. Road wins at Penn State and Michigan brought Maryland home for what looked to be the toughest two-game stretch on its schedule.
In a matchup of two teams ranked in the top three, Maryland handled Rutgers for a 17-9 win. In that game, fifth-year attacker Logan Wisnauskas broke the program’s all-time points record and become the first Terp to ever reach 300 career points just two games later.
The next game against Ohio State presented the last regular season home game, and it proved to be a challenge. At one point, Maryland trailed by four goals (its biggest deficit all season), but it ended the game on a 10-2 run to eventually pull away for a 19-12 victory, clinching the Big Ten regular season championship.
The regular season finale offered a trip to Homewood Field for a matchup against long-time rival Johns Hopkins, but it was only competitive for a few minutes. The Terps led by four fewer than four minutes in and ended up pulling away for a 15-goal defeat of the Blue Jays.
When Big Ten coaches voted on the conference’s yearly awards, Maryland won nearly all of them. In addition to winning the Big Ten Offensive, Defensive, Specialist and Coach of the Year awards, eight Terps earned All-Big Ten honors, the maximum permitted for a single team.
“I have great faith in our guys, I have great faith in our leadership,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said, trying to keep his team grounded despite their success. “We want to stay away from complacency… if you ever go on the field and the game is more important to one team than the other and they play that way, you’re always at a disadvantage.”
No. 4-seed Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (7-8, 2-3 Big Ten)
This season, the Blue Jays have been inconsistent to say the least, never winning or losing more than two games in a row. They started the season with an 11-8 win over a solid team in Jacksonville and then collected a road victory at Towson. Hopkins then lost five of its next seven games, only defeating Syracuse and Loyola at home. In that stretch, the Blue Jays dropped four road games to Georgetown, North Carolina, Virginia and Delaware, as well as a home loss to Navy.
Johns Hopkins has wins against the bottom two teams in the Big Ten, but it has been unable to claim victory over any of the conference’s top competition. In the regular season, the Blue Jays won home games against Michigan and Penn State but lost at both Rutgers and Ohio State.
They got another shot at fifth-seeded Penn State in the Big Ten Quarterfinals on Saturday and emerged with a 16-8 win to advance to the semifinals. They’ll get another shot at the Terps with revenge on their minds and an opportunity to win their second game away from Homewood Field to keep their season alive.
“They don’t want the season to end,” Tillman said of Johns Hopkins’ mindset. “They’re prideful guys. They’ve a chance to beat their arch rival down here, that would be pretty sweet [for them].”
What happened last time?
When the Terps and Blue Jays faced off in both teams’ regular season finales on Apr. 23, it was nothing short of a rout. Maryland completed an unbeaten regular season with a 22-7 win over Johns Hopkins in front of a large crowd at Homewood Field in Baltimore. The 15-goal loss was the largest margin of defeat on record in the 135-year history of the Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse program.
The game started with a flurry of Maryland goals and the Terps never let up, punctuated by a 10-goal third quarter in which the Blue Jays failed to score even once.
Logan Wisnauskas led the Terps with eight points, racking up five goals and three assists. Keegan Khan and Owen Murphy both had four goals of their own and DeMaio and Kyle Long also had multi-goal performances. Five other Terps scored, bringing the total to 10, the seventh game in a row that Maryland has had at least 10 goal scorers.
Maryland’s starting defense was stellar, allowing only four goals in three quarters before substitutions were made. Logan McNaney had 11 saves, and the Blue Jays looked out of sorts all game long due to the pressure of the Terps’ defensemen.
Maryland has won four consecutive games against Johns Hopkins, tying the longest Maryland winning streak in series history.
Three things to watch
1. How will Maryland play after a week off? After earning a bye past the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament, Maryland will play for the first time in nearly two weeks on Thursday. While a week off is a great opportunity to heal up and refresh before the grind of postseason play, there’s no doubt that the Terps have had a massive wave of momentum all season long. Tillman is known to try and over-prepare his team for every game, but there could be a few moments of rustiness just getting back into the flow of the game.
“I would say having a week off was good for us,” Tillman said. “We do have, in a lot of spots, older guys. That rest was important.”
2. Milliman is looking to break through against the Terps. In his second season as head coach at Johns Hopkins, Peter Milliman has yet to defeat his team’s arch nemesis, currently holding an 0-4 record against Maryland. Last year, his team played the Terps tough in the Big Ten Championship but came up just short, unable to hold onto their lead. There’s no doubt that last year’s results as well as the beating that the Blue Jays endured less than two weeks ago will be ample motivation for Johns Hopkins to come out with energy.
3. This will be the Terps’ first time playing a team twice this season. In the regular season, Maryland played five teams in the discussion for at-large bids to the NCAA tournament and another three competing for an automatic bid in their respective conference tournaments (Hopkins, High Point and Loyola). With all those teams as potential NCAA tournament opponents, Maryland will likely see a familiar foe after the Big Ten tournament concludes. Thursday’s game against Johns Hopkins provides an opportunity for Tillman and his staff to see how opponents will gameplan for the Terps with a full game of film on them.
“It’s always harder playing a team twice, especially when it goes well the first time,” DeMaio said. “Just gotta keep that in the back of our minds and keep plugging away. They’re a good team. We have a lot of respect for them.”