There will always be a special place in Maryland men’s lacrosse history for this particular roster. Between the COVID-19 tests and frequent Big Ten weekly award honors, Maryland has undeniably played at a level it hasn’t reached in quite some time.
After confidently securing a victory at Ann Arbor, Maryland’s 2021 roster had officially joined the Terp’s 2004 squad as the second Maryland roster in the century to start 8-0. Fittingly, the Terps’ entrance into rarified air was topped off with a No. 1 ranking just days after its win over Michigan.
It was a rewarding acquisition of a spot that Maryland had patiently vied for since the start of the season.
As ACC blue-bloods jostled back-and-forth for the nation’s top five spots, Maryland convincingly dominated, and eventually claimed the regular-season title in its own conference, ultimately making a case for a position it had arguably deserved all season.
The sacrifices made that allowed this roster to exist shouldn’t be lost on history either. Capably supplanting every opponent in the Big Ten with the nation's second-best scoring offense is one thing, but doing so in a pandemic is an entirely unique ordeal — one that has required a great deal of maturity and discipline.
“It’s obviously challenging to do in COVID,” midfielder Alex Smith said. “So we talked a lot about sacrificing personal things that we may want to do but in order to kind of give us a chance of playing we have to sacrifice for the team...
“So, it’s kind of just a sense of camaraderie and understanding from a personal basis in a team that your own priorities don’t outweigh your teammates’ and putting your team first before yourself to make sure that we have the ability to play.”
What were Joe Walters and Lee Zink in 2004 or Matt Rambo and Connor Kelly in 2017, has become Logan Wisnauskas, Jared Bernhardt and more in 2021. What was an offense led by a few in Maryland’s former glory is now an offense led by a profoundly unselfish group appreciative of an opportunity that wasn’t available in 2020. And as many returners from last year's shortened campaign will tell you, gratitude has led the way in these unusual circumstances.
“I think we’re trying to just embrace it and that’s something that Coach Tillman talks about every single day,” attacker Daniel Maltz said. “Just take it one day at a time and be grateful to be out here because any given day can get taken away from you.”
Perfection is also in the Terps’ sights, but the prospect of acquiring the most coveted piece of hardware in the season’s ultimate match looks to be a far more compelling prize to notable veteran leaders the team seems to be brimming with.
As Wisnauskas implored before the team’s final home game, the team is never satisfied, presumably because they know exactly what’s in store if complacency stays in their rearview. Or it’s because this year's team truly is one of a kind, positioning itself as one of the many premier lacrosse teams in Maryland’s illustrious history.
“I’ve cautioned our guys to just be like, ‘listen, the big part of the season is coming up, what you did in the past, you hopefully learn and build on it, but it doesn’t carry over week to week,” head coach John Tillman said. “You’re starting over fresh each week and you’re going to get everybody’s best shot.”