With less than two minutes to go in the game with Maryland men’s lacrosse down 11-13, attacker Logan Wisnauskas felt his scoring options disappearing, along with his footing, and opted to make the highlight play — with a defender draped over his shoulder. With the shot clock waning in a game-deciding possession, Wisnauskas found the back of the net himself with just a second to spare, cutting Maryland’s deficit to just one point with less than two minutes remaining.
His goal was crucial in turning the tides in Maryland’s most competitive affair of the season — one which the Blue Jays had control of for the better part of the second half.
It was a goal that was a product of Maryland’s high energy that wasn’t always present and was practically absent as Johns Hopkins nearly walked off as the victor against the best team in the nation. It was enough to liven up the Terps in the final two minutes and eventually allowed them to snatch Johns Hopkins’ two-goal lead and the Crab Trophy along with it.
Maryland used a late three-goal run in the fourth to sneak past Johns Hopkins in the second round of The Rivalry with a 14-13.
“In my opinion, we needed this,” head coach John Tillman said referring to the tough comeback, “we needed to prove that if we got punched in the face and the chips were down, that we were mentally tough enough to potentially come back and do this.”
There was more than usual on the line during Maryland’s final regular season contest. It was clear from the opening faceoff. Starting slow was not an option. As faceoff specialist Luke Wierman decisively won the first of his 13 faceoffs that afternoon, the Terps put on an offensive clinic. The energy that was awfully present and overbearing at the start of week nine’s contest was focused and purposeful in the start week ten’s.
In less than two minutes, with no wasted movements on or off the ball, Maryland netted its first goal of the afternoon, making a statement for what was to come. Bernhardt was the final man of the offensive sequence that seemed to have touched every cradle on the offensive side. In the teeth of the defense, the Tewaaraton nominee snuck one past the Blue Jays second string keeper. Ten seconds later, off another tidy faceoff win by Wierman, Bernhardt drifted past the backline of the defense and finished again at the lip of the crease.
For the first time in a while, the Terps were clicking as an offensive unit — and were finishing as well. But this match was for the Crab Trophy, so the fun didn’t last long.
Three more goals found the back of the net before Hopkins halted the run with an attacker/midfielder Cole Williams one-touch finish in the quarter’s final seconds. With his goal, momentum shifted as Maryland’s energy wavered. Turnovers, faceoff losses and poor decisions mounted as Hopkins cut the initial 5-0 lead to just 5-3. Maryland did quell the run with a 4-1 run of its own, but it was clear the Blue Jays were willing to match Maryland at every turn.
In the second quarter, the Blue Jays, out-shot and out-scored the Terps and saw Maryland commit seven turnovers after just allowing one in the first frame. Still, Hopkins cut Maryland’s lead down to two points twice but barely sniffed an opportunity to equalize and entered halftime down 9-6.
That quickly changed with Johns Hopkins’ 4-1 run to start the second half. The Blue Jays were moving with a confidence that was unmatched. Pestering on the ride, leveling offensive and defensive ball handlers and shooting with purpose. Enough to give the No. 1 Terps a tough time on the road.
The door was open for an upset.
And as attacker Connor DeSimone finished his third goal of the afternoon from the wing for the games first lead, a score that was later followed by a finish by midfielder Jonathan Peshko, the opportunity to upset became very real. Maryland’s defense was visibly gassed and the lack of faceoff wins in the second half did little but exacerbate Maryland’s declining energy.
“I just talked to them about, ‘listen, there’s plenty of time, I need everybody’s eyes,’” Tillman told his team after falling 13-11, “‘we’re going to come back, we’re going to win this game, I need you to believe it, I need you guys to take a deep breath and realize it’s going to take one play at a time.’”
Maryland, would heed the words of its coach and searched for a shot patiently as Johns Hopkins gave its best effort to mitigate the nation's best offense. It eventually struck gold with Wisnauskas out-stretched, buzzer-beating finish at the end of a lifeless Maryland possession and later, off Maryland’s first faceoff win of the second half, a one-man goal-scoring effort by Bernhardt to equalize at 13 points.
With the final faceoff win, Maryland had the perfect opportunity to decide its fate with the final possession. Aside from Bernhardt, there was no better man to do the job than Wisnauskas, who finished the game with a wide-open stroke from the left wing. Off an assist from Bernhardt, Wisnauskas found himself, once again, in a game-deciding situation and easily netted his fourth of the afternoon with ice coursing through his veins.
Following the finish and the final 18 seconds of game time that Maryland clocked, the Terps rushed the field in celebration, energetic again; as Crab Trophy winners and as the ninth undefeated regular season team in program history.
“We just had to stick together. We know what our capability is,” Bernhardt said, “we’re a tight knit group never getting down on guys [so we] just [had to] keep coming and just being relentless throughout the game no matter what.”
Three things to know
1. This was Maryland’s first fourth-quarter game. For the first time in a long time, Maryland was forced to play in a competitive, laboring, fourth quarter. After seemingly gassing themselves in the first quarter, Maryland was met with some motivated opposition.
“This game will help us a lot going down the stretch,” Wisnauskas said “having like a close game itself, finding other ways to win not just going away from teams.”
2. Luke Wierman struggled. After a solid 4-5 start that vitalized Maryland’s early 5-0 run, Wierman lost 11 straight faceoffs that proved to be integral to Johns Hopkins’ first lead early in the fourth quarter. Thankfully for Maryland, Wierman was able to come away with wins in the final three faceoffs, combining with the Maryland attack to snowball momentum and see out the victory.
“Faceoffs weren’t going well,” Tillman said. “That was honestly something that you got to give Matt [Narewski] credit. [He] kicked our butts in the second half and we were 0-6 in the third. And to be honest, we didn’t win many early but faceoffs and saves sometimes can be timely and getting those late ones were huge for us.”
3. Maryland earns its first bye week. After Saturday’s matchup, there are advantages to having a week off. But there are also disadvantages that include a loss of momentum that could be vital in stringing wins together in the postseason. While the Big Ten tournament kicks off on May 1, the Terps will not face an opponent between Saturday’s win and May 6, for the Big Ten semifinal.