College Lacrosse

Reigning champion Maryland gets defensive in season opener

COLLEGE PARK – Head coach John Tillman has talked about being "attacking champs." Maryland definitely looked like defending champs during Saturday's season opener against Navy.

Senior goalkeeper Dan Morris recorded 11 saves to anchor a suffocating defensive effort as the second-ranked Terrapins defeated the Midshipmen, 10-4, before an announced crowd of 1,875 on a rainy day at Maryland Stadium.


Senior midfielder Tim Rotanz scored three goals and assisted another to lead a methodical offense for Maryland, which forced 14 turnovers and dominated possession. Freshman midfielder Bubba Fairman made an impressive debut with three goals for the Terrapins, who have now won 25 straight season openers.

Returning first team All-American midfielder Connor Kelly made numerous outstanding passes in contributing a goal and two assists. Freshman attackman Logan Wisnauskas, a transfer from Syracuse, showed he could be a factor offensively by adding a goal and an assist. Sophomore attackman Jared Bernhardt also had a goal and an assist.


Maryland graduated Defensive Player of the Year Tim Muller (Schmeisser Award) and another first team All-American in short stick defender Isaiah Davis-Allen. The Terrapins were without returning starter Bryce Young on Saturday as the close defenseman was spotted using crutches on the sideline.

Tillman also changed defensive coordinators with former All-American Jesse Bernhardt returning to his alma mater to replace Kevin Conry, who left to become head coach at Michigan.

None of those losses mattered as the defensive unit looked in midseason form in holding Navy scoreless for stretch of 25 minutes, 21 seconds spanning the second and third quarters. Sophomore Jack Welding replaced Muller in the starting lineup while senior Mike Adler filled in for Young as the Terps totally disrupted whatever the Midshipmen wanted to do offensively.

"They hang their hat on the defensive end so that hasn't changed. Some names and faces have changed, but they still play good defense," Navy head coach Rick Sowell said.

Returning starter Curtis Corley played physical against imposing Navy attackman Jack Ray and held the 6-foot-6, 248-pound senior to one goal. Long stick midfielder Nick Brozowski did a good job of containing standout midfielder Greyson Torain, who was limited to one goal on five shots. Short stick defensive midfielder Roman Puglise had the tough assignment of covering midfielder Casey Rees and held him to one goal on eight shots.

"I thought our defense did a tremendous job. Coach Bernhardt always has a great gameplan for us and they followed it really well," Morris said.

Tillman learned on Friday morning that Young would not be available to play in the opener. The eighth-year head coach declined to discuss the specific nature of the injury and characterized Young as week-to-week.

"Coach Bernhardt did a terrific job with the defensive gameplan. You give up four goals you're certainly proud of that," Tillman said. "Michael Adler, in really his first significant time, did a tremendous job. Roman Puglise did a terrific job as well. I thought our guys slid and recovered really well today."


Morris felt confident the Terps would maintain their reputation for playing aggressive, lockdown defense despite having just one returning starter playing on Saturday. Matt Neufeldt, the team's top long stick midfielder last season, came off the bench and primarily played close defense while scooping a game-high five ground balls.

"Everyone knows Maryland has a lot of pride in its defense. It's always been a defensive powerhouse program," Morris said. "We have Coach Bernhardt who was a great player here who really instills that defensive culture in us. Since I've been here, we always lose great players, but we always have guys step in, develop and become great players themselves."

Navy announced before the game that faceoff specialist Joe Varello had his Naval Academy-imposed suspension lifted this week. Varello provided an immediate boost by winning 12 of 18 faceoffs while working mostly against Maryland returning starter Austin Henningsen. The Midshipmen lost 19 of 22 faceoffs in their season-opening loss at Jacksonville.

"Joe is a solid faceoff guy and did a good job today. There was probably a psychological boost to having him in the lineup," Sowell said. "We'd like to think he'll continue to allow our offense to have the ball a little more."

Indeed, Navy outshot Maryland 32-31 on Saturday – one week after getting off just 18 shots against Jacksonville. However, the Midshipmen were forced to take a lot of perimeter shots with defender's right on the hands of the offensive player and many were off target.

Navy converted just 4 of 32 shots with the starting midfield of Rees, Torain and Ryan Wade going 2-for-19.


"Our shots were a lot harder to come by and maybe a little bit easier for the goalie to save," Sowell acknowledged. "You have to tip your hat sometimes and I thought they played great defense. They were sliding quickly and timed their slides very well. At the end of the day, we couldn't take advantage of one-on-one matchups that we got."

Many of Navy's turnovers were unforced and several came on clears as the visitors went 10-for-15 in that category. Goalie Ryan Kern (five saves) was stripped while trying to clear the ball himself during a man-down situation and that led to an empty-net goal by Kelly. Later, Navy midfielder Ryan Wade just dropped the ball after catching a clearing pass and Wisnauskas got a point-blank opportunity as a result.

"Sloppy stickwork hurt us and we shot ourselves in the foot a few times. You can't give a team as good as Maryland those kinds of opportunities," Sowell said.

A steady downpour throughout the contest made ball-handling difficult at times, but Rees would not blame that for Navy's offensive woes.

"Yea, the conditions were a factor, but both teams were affected so I don't think we can blame anything on the rain," Rees said. "We had some good looks and just didn't convert. Like coach said, people need to break down their man and make things happen. No one could seem to get their hands free for a good look."

Maryland graduated its entire starting attack in Matt Rambo, Colin Heacock and Dylan Maltz. Jared Bernhardt moved from midfield to attack while Wisnauskas bolstered the unit after sitting out last season as a redshirt at Syracuse. Redshirt freshman Anthony DeMaio made his first career start on attack while the first midfield of Kelly, Rotanz and Fairman proved quite productive.


"That's going to be one of our potential strengths. Everybody knows about Connor and Tim, but we have some other good parts. Hopefully, that will make this team harder to defend," Tillman said. "It could be someone new every week that steps up and allows us to not be so predictable. I think that's the way this team will be built."

Tillman announced afterward that sophomore midfielder Steve Shollenberger has suffered a season-ending injury. As was the case with Young, Tillman would not specific the exact nature of the injury.

Navy (0-2) 2-0-2-0=4

Maryland (1-0) 4-0-2-5=11

GOALS: N – Rees, Torain, Ray, Little. M – Rotanz 3, Fairman 3, Kelly, Wisnauskas, Bernhardt, Mintzer. ASSISTS: N – Daniel, Wade. M – Kelly 2, Bernhardt, Giblin, Rotanz, Wisnauskas. SHOTS: N – 32. M – 31. SAVES: N – Kern 5. M – Morris 11. FACEOFFS: N – 12. M – 6. GROUND BALLS: N – 23. M – 25. TURNOVERS: N – 14. M – 10.