There are probably a million other things John Tillman would rather do than talk about himself.
So after Tillman collected his 100th victory as the head coach for the No. 3 Maryland men’s lacrosse team after a 13-6 romp against visiting Penn before an announced 1,595 at Maryland Stadium Wednesday, the players stood on the soapbox for their coach.
“Coach Tillman is an unbelievable coach,” senior defenseman Bryce Young said. “He is a mentor, a father figure, and a coach last. What he does for this program is above and beyond, and I’m just happy and honored to be one of his seniors.”
The Terps (4-0) were fueled offensively by redshirt freshman attackman Logan Wisnauskas, who led all scorers with five goals and has scored eight times in his past two starts.
And a defense that had surrendered an uncharacteristic 14 goals to High Point — the most allowed by Maryland in a regular-season game during Tillman’s tenure — in a win Saturday was much tighter against the Quakers, who did not get onto the scoreboard until 1:05 into the second quarter.
Penn (1-1) got only one goal on nine shots and one assist from its first midfield of senior Reilly Hupfeldt, junior Tyler Dunn and freshman Mitch Bartolo. Its starting attack of senior Kevin McGeary, junior Simon Mathias and sophomore Adam Goldner combined for three goals on 19 shots and one assist.
Senior goalkeeper Dan Morris made a game-high 13 saves for the Terps. And Young made his season debut and first start of 2018 after missing the first three games because of an unspecified injury and shut out Goldner, who did not score a point during six-on-six situations.
But the spotlight after the game centered on Tillman, who has reshaped the program since leaving Harvard to succeed Dave Cottle before the 2011 season. Tillman has guided Maryland to six Final Four appearances, five title-game berths and the 2017 NCAA Division I championship — the school’s first since 1975.
Tillman — who improved to 100-29 and is the fastest coach in school history to reach the century mark — broke a tie for third place with Dave Cottle and trails only Jack Faber and Al Heagy (225 victories each) and Dick Edell (171) on the program’s all-time list.
As he has been known to do, Tillman downplayed his role in the program’s success, crediting his assistant coaches and the players instead.
“Certainly [offensive coordinator] J.L. [Reppert] has been phenomenal, [defensive coordinator] Jesse [Bernhardt] and [volunteer assistant coach] Ty [Barbarich] today, those guys are the reason why you win those games,” Tillman said. “It’s not one person. It’s everybody else doing such a great job, and I’m lucky to have them. I don’t score any goals. These guys do all the hard work, and I’m thankful for them, and I’m thankful for all that they’re willing to do for the team and the program.”
After the game, a video tribute played on the giant scoreboards looking over the field and former players like Niko Amato, Bryan Cole, Colin Heacock and Tim Muller congratulated Tillman. The coach was clearly embarrassed by the attention, but his players did not avoid the chance to speak about Tillman.
“It’s been a challenge and a journey, but at the same time, I’ve grown so much as a person under Coach Tillman and all of the coaches,” junior long-stick midfielder Nick Brozowski said. “They challenge us and challenge me every day to be a better player and achieve things that maybe I didn’t think I was capable of doing. Sometimes we probably want to rip each other’s heads off, but at the end of the day, it’s what makes us a better team and a better player. So it’s been a hell of a ride since the beginning, and for him to accomplish this is awesome.”
Added fifth-year senior goalkeeper Dan Morris: “Just everything that he preaches and teaches carries on the field and continues off the field. The attention to detail and hard work that Coach Tillman puts in every single day, it’s not surprising to me that he’s gotten 100, and I’m sure there’s several hundred more to be had.”
“I just love every day,” he said. “It’s not just the games. It’s coming in and seeing these guys. Things don’t go well and then they respond well or seeing them graduate and doing great things. To me, that’s what makes me happiest, just getting there every day and being with the guys and being around them and their families and hopefully just getting them prepared for the rest of their lives. I don’t think too much about it. It just kind of says I’ve been around for a while, I guess.”