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Joining the Big Ten hasn’t stopped Maryland lacrosse’s dominance

Our Big Ten retrospective keeps rolling with a look at the school’s best teams.

NCAA Lacrosse: Women’s Championships Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Four years ago, Maryland Athletics officially joined the Big Ten. To mark this, we’re taking a look back at Maryland’s time so far in the conference. We started with a top-10 moments list and a look at the football and men’s basketball teams last week. Today, we look at Maryland’s most dominant teams.

When Maryland joined the Big Ten, it helped start a new era of lacrosse for the conference. Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Rutgers all had men’s and women’s varsity teams, and Northwestern women’s lacrosse had recently won seven national titles in an eight-year span. Johns Hopkins announced it would join the conference for men’s lacrosse days after Maryland officially moved to the Big Ten, and the Blue Jays’ women’s team made the same move for the 2017 season.

The conference still wasn’t as good as the ACC, which has multiple teams with loads of tradition. The Big Ten has two teams with significant history in both men’s and women’s lacrosse, with the other members looking to burst onto the scene. However, not playing in as deep a conference hasn’t stopped Maryland from being the measuring stick in the sport.

The numbers are astounding.

We joke on this site a lot that we’re basically a lacrosse blog, but both teams’ success warrant it. In the four years since joining the Big Ten, Maryland lacrosse has won 13 regular season and conference tournament titles, advanced to eight Final Fours and won three national championships. The rest of Maryland athletics has won 15 total conference titles, advanced to two Final Fours and appeared in one national championship over the same time period.

In addition, no other men’s or women’s lacrosse team has reached the Final Four in each of the past four years, and both Maryland streaks go back further than that. The men’s team has reached five straight Final Fours and seven out of the last eight, and the women’s team has reached 10 straight. The men’s senior class just graduated as the winningest in program history, and the women just lost more than one game in a season for the first time in six years.

Cathy Reese and John Tillman have restored their respective teams to prominence after a bit of a lull before they arrived, and they won’t be going away anytime soon.

How does the rest of the Big Ten size up?

On the men’s side, the conference was as competitive last year as it’s ever been. Three of the men’s victories were by one goal, with the opponent taking the lead before the Terps rallied. Every team has had the chance to knock off Maryland since the conference started, but only archrival Johns Hopkins and Ohio State have done so. Both teams have been the biggest players on the national stage besides Maryland in the past four years, so it’s not a surprise that they’ve played Maryland the toughest.

Rutgers and Penn State have both had talent, but Maryland’s experience at grinding out wins has been too much to handle. Michigan just started its lacrosse program in 2012 and has been at the bottom of the Big Ten, although it looked to take a step forward under first-year head coach and former Maryland assistant Kevin Conry last season.

On the women’s side, only Penn State and Northwestern have given Maryland much of a challenge. However, the only team to beat Maryland in a Big Ten game is Ohio State, who knocked off the Terps 11-10 in the 2015 Big Ten tournament semifinals, Since then, Maryland has beaten the Buckeyes a combined 53-19 in the next three matchups.

Ohio State, Michigan and Rutgers haven’t been too competitive in women’s lacrosse the past few years, and Johns Hopkins made the NCAA Tournament last year but isn’t ready to compete in the conference. Penn State and Northwestern have made appearances on the national stage in the past decades, although neither is at the same level as Maryland.

The future looks just as bright.

Both Terrapin lacrosse teams have been the class of the conference, and that should stay true in the years to come. Each will likely be the favorite in their respective conferences next season, though they are in different places on the national stage. The women’s team should battle with Boston College for the top spot, while the men’s team can definitely reach the Final Four but, like this past season, may not have the depth or veteran leadership to reach the mountaintop again.

After the 2019 season, both teams should continue to compete for national championships. Cathy Reese will lose a talented and deep senior class, but will replace it with what should be the runaway top recruiting class in the country. John Tillman has the blueprint to get to the Final Four, and Championship Weekend appearances have moved from unexpected to the norm. Now, he seeks to find the right balance of leadership and playmakers like the 2017 team.

Crabcakes and lacrosse are what Maryland does best, and the teams in College Park should continue to do well in the latter in the foreseeable future.