The University of Maryland and Towson University sit less than 50 miles apart on Interstate 95, and on Sunday, the two schools will face off in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship.
But despite the close proximity and the fact that both programs have made names for themselves in the world of lacrosse recently, it’s the first meeting between the two since 2011.
The Terrapins and Tigers have a storied history, playing each other 33 times dating back to 1971 and including 22 straight seasons from 1990-2011. The Terps have been dominant, winning 28 games while dropping just five. They are 15-0 in Towson and 13-4 at home (they lost the only game at a neutral site). If that history is any indication, Maryland’s tournament run should start with a win, although the Tigers are seeded No. 6 and the Terps are unseeded for the first time since 2012.
The teams have also played in the postseason twice before, and Towson walked away a winner in both meetings. In 1991, the unseeded Tigers knocked off No. 7-seed Maryland, 15-11, in the national semifinals. Ten years later, No. 6-seed Towson defeated No. 3 Maryland, 12-11, in the quarterfinal round.
Head coach John Tillman took over in place of Dave Cottle for the 2011 season, which incidentally happens to be the last time the schools have met in the regular season (the sides played a home-and-home exhibition series after). In that game, Maryland went on the road and came back with an 8-4 victory, but the Tigers haven’t shown up on the schedule until now.
“I know some of the things we considered when I first got here nine years ago, we were trying to expand our schedule, get to different places,” Tillman said Wednesday. “That first midfield when I was here, it was North Carolina [product] John Haus, Jake Bernhardt from Florida (his younger brother Jesse was also on the team) and Drew Snider from Seattle. We had a lot of guys from different areas and we felt like getting to different areas might help our recruiting, obviously help our fan base.”
Since 2011, the Terrapins have made trips to Connecticut, Albany, Notre Dame and Michigan (in 2014, right before Maryland joined the Big Ten), as well some neutral-site games in California. But these nonconference games have still mostly been on the East Coast, which puts the absence of Towson into further question.
It seems that Tillman would consider putting the Tigers back on the nonconference slate, which would help the Terrapins’ strength of schedule if the Tigers continue to play at a high level in the years to come.
“I’m certainly open to it, just looking at the selection criteria and all that,” he said. “They’re a really good team, they’ve been a really good team the last few years. The way it is now, you’re looking for the best opponents, and to me it makes sense.
“You got somebody right in your backyard that’s been super successful, it should help you not only at the end of the year, but help you during the year. You play those tough teams, it gets you ready for your conference.”
But all future talks will be put on hold for at least one more week, as Maryland and Towson are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives, and the Tigers won’t be a pushover. They enter play on a four-game winning streak and have defeated three tournament teams, including then-No. 1 Loyola.
“They’re a big, strong, athletic team, and they’re really good at what they do,” sophomore midfielder Bubba Fairman said. “They run transition really well. I just think if we play our game, then we’ll match up pretty well and that’s just playing simple, playing hard and playing fast.”
There will also be somewhat of a familiarity between the teams, as Towson is in part led by second-leading goal scorer Timmy Monahan, who spent the first two years of his collegiate career in College Park. After scoring three goals in 19 games for the Terps, he transferred after the 2017 national championship run and has now helped bring the Tigers to a No. 6 seed.
“He (Monahan) was my roommate when he was here,” senior defender Curtis Corley said. “I have tremendous respect watching him this year. He’s got really talented hands, he’s scoring at a really high clip. He’s a really great kid off the field, on the field, he’s doing really well for them. I’m wishing him the best this week on Sunday, but no friendships on Sunday.”
Sunday’s first-round game starts at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU, and it could be the match that relights the fire of this once-strong in-state lacrosse rivalry.