Tuesday’s entry is the last in a series taking a look at each of the seven Division I programs in the state according to their order of finish from last season. The Baltimore Sun’s men’s lacrosse preview is scheduled to be published Friday. Monday’s visit was with Towson. This is Maryland’s turn.
Overview: The fifth time was apparently the charm for the Terps. After four previously fruitless appearances in the NCAA tournament final under coach John Tillman, Maryland punched through for the program’s first Division I championship since 1975 by stifling Ohio State, 9-6, on Memorial Day. Maryland, which ended with a 16-3 record, was voted the preseason favorite in the Big Ten, where the program has captured two conference tournament crowns and three regular-season titles in a row.
Reason for optimism: Graduation took a toll on the Terps, but on paper, the defense has the potential to be the foundation early in the season.
Senior Bryce Young (38 ground balls, 13 caused turnovers) and junior Curtis Corley (21 GB, 5 CT) are back as starting defensemen, and senior Matt Neufeldt (68 GB, 21 CT, three goals, two assists) and junior Nick Brozowski (26 GB, 12 CT, 3 G) are 1-2 at long-stick midfielder. And senior goalkeeper Dan Morris (8.75 goals-against average, .548 save percentage) will man the cage again.
“I think what’s comforting is knowing how much those guys care and what this means to them,” coach John Tillman said. “It would be one thing if they were just talented, selfish players, but they’re not. They’re team-first guys, and I think they have a great sense of the tradition defensively here.”
Reason for pessimism: On the flip side, there will be three new faces on attack after the graduation of Tewaaraton Award winner Matt Rambo (42 G, 45 A), Colin Heacock (28 G, 17 A) and Dylan Maltz (29 G, 6 A).
Sophomore Jared Bernhardt (20 G, 8 A) has shifted from midfield to attack. Senior Colin Giblin (2 G in six games), junior Louis Dubick (3 G, 2 A), redshirt freshmen Logan Wisnauskas (a Syracuse transfer) and Anthony DeMaio and freshman Kyle Brickerd are jockeying for the other two spots. But Tillman said no one should expect this trio to replicate what last year’s trio accomplished.
“These guys need to be the best versions of themselves that they can be,” he said. “Anytime you lose guys that have been around here for that long, it’s unfair to expect anybody to pick up where those guys left off. Everybody realizes there were some major losses, but those are opportunities, and it’s a great opportunity for those guys to say, ‘Hey, I’ve worked really hard and now I want my chance.’ ”
Keep an eye on: Replacing starting defenseman Tim Muller — Division I’s Outstanding Defender, a first-team All-American and the NCAA tournament’s Most Outstanding Player — is no easy task, but the same could be said for short-stick defensive midfielders Isaiah Davis-Allen (39 GB, 2 CT, 1 G, 3 A) and Nick Manis (10 GB, 6 CT).
Juniors Wesley Janeck (19 GB, 1 CT) and Thomas O’Connell (3 GB, 2 CT) are poised to fill in, and Tillman likes what he has seen from that duo so far.
“I think those two guys have done a good job for us,” he said. “It’s nice to have two juniors there, and we certainly have some other guys that are kind of waiting in the wings.”
What he said: Maryland scheduled scrimmages against Georgetown and Virginia, but Tillman was not concerned about the scores. With a number of questions littered throughout the lineup, he used the scrimmages to gauge players’ ability to make significant contributions.
“You know what you’re going to get from certain players,” he said. “You kind of know with a guy like Bryce Young and a guy like [senior midfielder] Connor Kelly. They’ve been there and done that. What you’re really trying to figure out is, which guys look like they belong? Are there certain guys we limit due to injuries? Who seems to play well together? I think we’re still working that stuff out. We’re kind of figuring out some of the pieces, where they should be, what they should do, what they do well.”