Top-seeded Maryland men’s lacrosse had to prepare to face one of the nation’s premier offensive attacks in the Big Ten championship game. No. 2-seed Rutgers entered the game ranked in the top 10 nationally in goals per game. To say that Maryland’s defense was up to the task, however, would be a major understatement. The unit completely shut down the Scarlet Knights, forcing fourteen turnovers and multiple few shot clock violations and only allowing two goals in the first half and seven total, the fewest that Rutgers has scored all season.
When asked about the reasons behind Maryland’s defensive prowess, head coach John Tillman looked to the numbers. “You’re getting eleven saves, only seven goals... you’re winning 21-of-28 [faceoffs], so those are fourteen extra possessions that you don’t have to defend,” he said. “You combine with just good solid defense, good goalie play, you’re setting yourself up hopefully for success.”
The Terps rode their defensive success and high-powered offense to their second consecutive Big Ten championship, battering Rutgers, 17-7.
Maryland moved to an astounding 14-0 on the season and Rutgers fell to 13-3.
“To be able to represent our school and win a Big Ten championship means a lot,” Tillman said. “Lacrosse means so much in this area and we have so much great tradition here.”
The first quarter started with a classic early goal from the Terps, courtesy of the team’s top offensive weapon. Fifth-year attacker Logan Wisnauskas caught a pass from graduate midfielder Jonathan Donville and scored fewer than 40 seconds into the game.
Rutgers answered with a tally from senior attacker Mitch Bartolo, but the Terps struck again when Wisnauskas assisted sophomore midfielder Jack Koras, who cut to the net and finished in stride.
Rutgers senior midfielder Ronan Jacoby tied the game at two, but that was the last time the Scarlet Knights were even.
Maryland ended the first half on a 6-0 run. Wisnauskas added his second goal with just over eight minutes remaining in the first quarter, and fifth-year attacker Anthony DeMaio followed with two straight unassisted goals to give Maryland a three goal lead heading into the second quarter.
Wisnauskas notched his hat trick with 11:24 left in the half, a feat he’s accomplished in all but three of Maryland’s 14 games in 2022.
“The second time around, they had an idea what were doing at some points,” Wisnauskas said. “[We were] not just taking that first opportunity and just kind of working to cut and stuff and make them work.”
Then, senior long-stick midfielder John Geppert fired in his fifth goal of the season after an assist from sophomore defenseman Ajax Zappitello. The assist was the second of Zappitello’s career, the first of which he recorded on Thursday in the team’s 16-11 victory over Johns Hopkins.
With just 10 seconds remaining in the half, Donville scored to put Maryland up 8-2 heading into halftime.
Just more than four minutes into the third quarter, Rutgers senior midfielder Ryan Gallagher finally beat Maryland junior goalie Logan McNaney. That goal ended the Scarlet Knights’ scoring drought that spanned over 28 minutes and included Rutgers’ first scoreless quarter of the season.
The Terps answered with back-to-back strikes. Sophomore attacker Owen Murphy ripped a shot that was saved by Rutgers senior goalie Colin Kirst, but the rebound bounced right to the feet of a well-positioned Keegan Khan, and the graduate attacker expertly deposited the ball in the back of the net.
Wisnauskas then sent a pass across the field that found sophomore attacker Eric Malever, who scored with 8:48 remaining in the third quarter to give Maryland a 10-3 lead.
Rutgers made an attempt to fight its way back into the game, scoring the game’s next two goals. Senior long-stick midfielder Ethan Rall and junior attacker Ross Scott beat McNaney and trimmed Maryland’s lead to five.
But, the Terps responded with a trio of tallies. DeMaio scored his third goal of the game, and Murphy as well as Malever followed to give Maryland an eight-goal cushion heading into the fourth quarter.
“What’s been great about Anthony is [that] he’s scored a lot of different ways and is shooting a lot of different ways... he’s done a really good job of keeping the goalie guessing,” Tillman said.
The last period of play was more of the same. Rutgers scored first courtesy of senior attacker Brian Cameron, but Wisnauskas scored for the fourth time. He finished with seven points and was named the Big Ten Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Most Valuable Player after the game concluded.
Goals from DeMaio, Koras and junior midfielder Jack Brennan gave the Terps an eleven goal lead.
Rutgers scored with just over a minute remaining, but the game was well out of reach. As time expired, Maryland’s bench stormed the field and mobbed McNaney in celebration of their 17-7 victory and Big Ten championship.
Three things to know
1. The Terps have won back-to-back Big Ten tournaments. This is the eighth conference tournament championship in Maryland men’s lacrosse history and the fifth under John Tillman — one in the ACC and four in the Big Ten. Having won in 2021, Maryland is the only program to repeat as Big Ten tournament champions. Tillman’s teams in 2016 and 2017 accomplished the feat as well.
“This was just a box checked,” Wisnauskas said. “We want to ultimately get the main thing. We’re keeping the main thing, the main thing.”
2. Luke Wierman set a Maryland record. Junior faceoff specialist Luke Wierman has been unbelievable for Maryland this entire season, putting together arguably the greatest season the program has ever seen at the faceoff “X.” With 20 faceoff wins against Rutgers, Wierman passed Curtis Holmes for the most faceoff wins ever in a single season by a Maryland player. Holmes had 222 faceoff wins in 2011. Wierman has won 236-of-361 (enters at 216-335) faceoffs in 2022, giving him a .654 faceoff winning percentage, the second-highest of any player in the country.
“We walked out on Thursday, [and] Luke was not happy,” Tillman said of his primary faceoff option’s mindset, who won 10-of-22 faceoffs in the team’s semifinal game against Johns Hopkins. “He was super motivated, and he wanted to come out and respond. There was no feeling sorry for himself. He was a man on a mission.”
3. Maryland won’t wait long to hear its name called Sunday night. With the NCAA tournament selection show less than 24 hours away, the Terps have all but secured the top overall seed in the field. Last year’s team was also undefeated entering the NCAA tournament, but it was given the No. 3 seed likely due to the lack of a non-conference schedule and the perceived strength of the ACC, which gathered the three top seeds. That won’t be an issue this year, as Maryland is once again the only undefeated team in the country and played challenging opponents both inside and outside of the Big Ten, which was by most metrics considered the second-best conference in the country this season behind the Ivy League. The Terps have been No. 1 in the polls for 11 consecutive weeks.