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Maryland men’s lacrosse earns No. 1 overall seed in NCAA tournament, will host first round game

Fresh off a Big Ten title, the Terps enter the tournament as the nation’s only undefeated team.

Photo courtesy of Maryland Athletics.

Maryland men’s lacrosse was named the No. 1 overall seed in the 2022 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament. As one of the tournament’s top eight seeds, the Terps earned a first round home game and will host either Vermont or Manhattan on May 15 at noon.

This marks Maryland’s 19th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance — the longest streak in the NCAA — and the 44th in the program’s history.

Maryland is the only undefeated team in the country and enters the NCAA tournament with an unblemished record for the second consecutive season. Last year, the Terps received the No. 3 overall seed and lost to fourth-seeded Virginia in the national championship game.

“I’m super proud of our guys. What a great journey it’s been,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said. “[It’s the] second season now, so [we] get a chance to play in the postseason. I don’t take that for granted.”

A unanimous choice for Big Ten Coach of the Year, Tillman has helmed the Terps to one of the most dominant seasons in college lacrosse history. Tillman’s squad is 14-0, having won both the Big Ten regular season and tournament championships. Maryland beat the Big Ten’s other NCAA tournament invitee, Rutgers, 17-7, to clinch its second straight Big Ten title behind a four-goal, three-assist performance by fifth-year attacker Logan Wisnauskas.

Wisnauskas, who was named the Big Ten tournament’s Most Valuable Player and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, is the most prolific scorer on Maryland’s offense, which ranks first nationally in goals per game. He is the program’s all-time leading scorer with 321 career points (84 this season) and is just 10 goals shy of Jared Bernhardt’s Maryland career goal record of 202.

Take out Wisnauskas, and the Terps still have an abundance of talent on attack. Graduate attacker Keegan Khan has put up 51 points this season and was named First Team All-Big Ten. Sophomores Eric Malever and Owen Murphy have provided jolts of energy too, scoring 23 and 25 goals, respectively. Malever also has 20 assists, trailing only Wisnauskas and Khan for the team lead.

Additionally, the midfield has been fantastic on both the offensive and defensive end. Graduate Roman Puglise and fifth-year Bubba Fairman have been better than solid as short-stick defensive midfielders. Puglise was named First Team All-Big Ten and Fairman has excelled after transitioning to the defensive end this year. On the offensive side of the ball, graduate Jonathan Donville, senior Kyle Long and fifth-year Anthony DeMaio have all consistently torched defenses. DeMaio caught fire in the Big Ten Tournament, posting seven goals and two assists en route to a spot on the Big Ten All-Tournament Team.

Key depth pieces in the midfield like junior Jack Brennan, sophomore Jack Koras and fifth-years Alex Smith and Jake Higgins are all important contributors to the team’s success as well.

The Terps have been so lethal in part due to the fact that they have the ball much more than their opponents. That can be attributed to the success of junior faceoff specialist Luke Wierman, who was named Big Ten Specialist of the Year. Wierman has posted the second-highest faceoff winning percentage in the country and the most faceoffs ever won in a single season by a Terp. He has attributed much of his success to the play of Maryland’s wings, including senior long-stick midfielder John Geppert (Second Team All-Big Ten) and graduate LSM Owen Prybylski.

Maryland’s elite defense has been outstanding as well. Senior defenseman Brett Makar was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and is the unit’s leader. He is aided by fellow close defensemen Matt Rahill (graduate) and Ajax Zappitello (sophomore), as well as junior goalie Logan McNaney, who has only lost one game as a starter in his career. Zappitello’s emergence as a sound defenseman has been particularly important in the team’s ability to shut down the many talented attacks they have faced.

But, Tillman knows that no matter how talented a team is, the NCAA tournament is the toughest test all season.

“Once you get there, the closer you get, the harder it is,” he said. “Let’s make sure we prepare and take it one step at a time and hopefully put ourselves in a position where if we can win Sunday, [we’ll] have another week [together].”

The Terps will have their hands full with their first round opponent.

Vermont enters the tournament with an 11-6 record, winning the America East championship with a 13-11 win over UMBC. The Catamounts had the America East Offensive Player of the Year in senior midfielder Thomas McConvey and the America East Defensive Player of the Year in graduate goalie Ryan Cornell. McConvey has 55 goals and 12 assists in 2022 and Cornell has a sub-8.50 goals allowed average.

Manhattan defeated St. Bonaventure, 8-7, in the MAAC title game to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years. The Jaspers have an 8-6 overall record and won the conference championship by riding a four-goal performance by graduate attacker Justin Malpica. The team had four First Team All-MAAC selections this season.

“There’s going to be a lot of distractions,” Tillman said. “We’ve really got to pull together and make sure we handle this week the right way.”

If Maryland wins its first round game, it will play either No. 8 Brown or Virginia in the quarterfinals on May 22. That game would be played at Ohio Stadium on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.