In a season of many firsts, Maryland men’s lacrosse has a chance to finish its regular season undefeated for the first time in over 25 years. But this year’s potential legendary finish won’t be without some opposition from the Terps storied rival.
In this season’s second installment of The Rivalry, 2-7 Johns Hopkins will be featured in Maryland’s regular season finale and is looking to continue the trend of firsts by handing the Terps their first loss in over 400 days.
“Around this time year everything means a little bit more,” defender Brett Makar said. “Every ground ball means more, every defensive stop means more so [we’re] really just trying to put an emphasis on that, and as you turn to the month of May — it really is that time of year [that] you do it for.”
The greatest rivalry in college lacrosse is still alive in 2021 and it will be televised on ESPNU at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
What happened last time
The first time these sides battled for the Crab Trophy, Maryland was faced with its first back and forth affair of the season. The Terps used a pivotal third-quarter outburst to romp the Blue Jays after opening up flat in the first half. It was the first time Maryland was punished for its sloppy play and was the only time at home Maryland was truly threatened as a unit.
Through all the disorder in the opening half that included self-inflicted turnovers and poor shooting, attacker/midfielder Anthony DeMaio stood out as the Terps lead attackman. DeMaio went 3-3 with his first shots and helped dig Maryland out of two-point holes on two separate occasions. Once to lessen the Terps early 3-1 deficit, and another coming at the start of the second to equalize and begin Maryland’s game-winning 11-0 run. DeMaio ended the contest with four goals on six shots, but even then, his offensive performance was far from the best of the afternoon.
DeMaio’s efforts paled in comparison to attacker Logan Wisnauskas’ numbers that ultimately paced Maryland to a massive lead. “Groot” dished out a season-high seven assists and added two goals to complete his masterful career-high nine-point outing.
Maryland’s second-half offense, balanced by its effectiveness on the ride and multiple defensive stands helped materialize a perfect third quarter in which the Blue Jays were left scoreless and with an overwhelming disadvantage.
The fourth quarter proved to be more of a negligible affair after Maryland’s offensive explosion, as the Blue Jays managed to mark up just three goals in response to Maryland’s 11 goal run. They finished with an 18-10 scoreline.
What’s happened since
After losing to Maryland, the Blue Jays dispatched Penn State and have been looking for a win ever since. Johns Hopkins’ five-game skid is the worst in the conference, but it hasn’t precluded them from competing for the fourth seed in the league. Michigan, with its equally forgettable season, matches Johns Hopkins with a 2-7 record but holds the last place position in the conference by virtue of a 7-14 loss to the Blue Jays in week two.
If Hopkins were to lose, it’d be at risk of compromising its ample positioning for the fourth spot in the conference and would also be giving up their fifth spot if Michigan wins. Obviously, there are no prizes for not being last, but it is, at the very least, consolation for what likely has been a miserable season for the Blue Jays.
“I know they’ll be inspired, the way everything is working out this year, everybody’s getting into the Big Ten tournament,” said Tillman. “Everybody has that chance to, you know, the next week start [a] mini run. And every week presents an opportunity to play which we couldn’t do last year — an opportunity to get better.”
Since week three, Maryland has enjoyed an impressive seven-game winning streak and has convincingly obliterated every Big Ten team, aside from Hopkins, twice. As Johns Hopkins has struggled to keep its head above water, it’s been smooth sailing for Maryland, the No. 1 team in the nation.
Three things to watch
1. Can the Terps complete a perfect regular season? Aside from granting Maryland its first perfect regular season of the century, a win at Homewood would also make this year’s 2021 roster the ninth team in program history to reach the undefeated mark. No matter what happens moving forward, this Maryland team will be remembered for its absurd offensive prowess and incredible discipline. For now, the Terps hope to maintain tunnel vision, taking one step at a time.
“It would definitely mean a lot,” Makar said referring to the prospect of an undefeated season, “winning’s a good thing and you got to make sure that that feelings positive, but the best thing about our team and the maturity [is that] I don’t think anyone on the team is thinking about the Big Ten tournament yet. We got a great team in Hopkins on Saturday so one day at a time. That’s how we’re going about it.”
2. Can Maryland match the energy it had last week? Whether it was exacerbated by the rowdy fans or a result of the waning regular season that has prompted more urgency by the Terps, there was clearly surging energy shared among the players on the field in Maryland’s last outing. At times, the high energy neared uncontrollable as Maryland’s turnovers and missed shots piled up. But towards the end, as the energy grew more focused, it was an encouraging sight for one of many favorites to contend for the national championship. An improved, tidier version of last game’s start could bode well for the Terps in the future.
3. How long does the six-goal run streak last going into the postseason? With great offensive success comes great offensive achievement. Perhaps the most significant and guaranteed of those achievements on a weekly basis is Maryland’s streak in which it has had a run of at least six points or more. It’s another extension of the Terps brilliance and quite possibly the perfect microcosm of Maryland’s offensive excellence. Evidently, it’s a team effort that ensures such numbers.
“I think that our faceoff guys and all of our wing guys too have done a great job on neutralizing the X, and I think that our defense has done a great job getting stopped so we need it,” DeMaio said, “... when we get that many more possessions because of their hard work and what they’re doing clearing the ball and making stops and getting faceoffs, it gives us more opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net.”