Some competitors don’t enjoy taking part in a tight game that could go either way. That wasn’t the case for the Maryland men’s lacrosse team.
The top-ranked Terps escaped an upset bid by their most contentious rivals in Johns Hopkins after scoring three goals in less than 90 seconds to leave Homewood Field in Baltimore with a 14-13 decision before and announced 250. Minutes afterward, players and coach John Tillman said they welcomed the kind of pressure associated with wrapping up a 10-0 overall and Big Ten record — the program’s first perfect regular season since 1987.
“In my opinion, we needed this,” Tillman said. “We needed to prove that if we got punched in the face and the chips were down, we were mentally tough to potentially come back and do this. No one wants to be in that spot, but throughout this year and especially playing in a season that we’ve played against Big Ten teams, everyone has talent. … We needed to be uncomfortable. We needed to see if, in that moment, we wouldn’t flinch and could respond to some adversity. I’m really proud of the way the guys did it.”
Maryland appeared as if it would miss out on its first unblemished mark in the Big Ten since the 2016 squad went 5-0 when the Blue Jays (2-8, 2-8 Big Ten) scored the first three goals of the fourth quarter to turn an 11-10 deficit into a 13-11 lead with 5:04 remaining. That marked the Terps’ first second-half deficit of the season.
But with the shot clock ticking down to zero, redshirt senior attackman Logan Wisnauskas collected a pass from junior midfielder Kyle Long, curled the right post, and then flipped a shot while diving to the turf over sophomore goalkeeper Tim Marcille and under the crossbar to make the score 13-12 with 1:48 left.
On the ensuing faceoff, junior long-stick midfielder John Geppert picked up a loose ball and passed it to Jared Bernhardt. The senior attackman carried the ball into the offensive zone, wove his way through the defense, and deposited his shot to tie the score at 13-13 with 1:36 remaining.
The Terps won the next faceoff when senior defenseman Nick Grill scooped a ground ball. Working behind the cage, Bernhardt waited several seconds until he found Wisnauskas on the left wing, and the Sykesville resident and Boys’ Latin graduate canned a sharp-angled shot for the 14-13 lead with 18.5 seconds left.
“Jared found me on the backside,” pointed out Wisnauskas, who shared the game’s top honors with Bernhardt as both players totaled five points on four goals and one assist. “He’s a great player, draws a lot of attention. All I had to do was the easy part, just put it in the back of the net.”
Bernhardt credited Wisnauskas with moving from his customary spot on the right wing and finding a gap in the Johns Hopkins defense on the left wing.
“Loges is usually on the other side actually,” Bernhardt said. “He was able to make his way to that wing. Kind of just went through the progressions. Was looking inside, was looking back to see if someone was trailing, looking over top. I was able to keep my feet moving and Logan did a good job of finding open space, and I was able to see him.”
Tillman said before his two-goal outburst in the final 1:29.5, Wisnauskas was unhappy with his performance, which included a team-high three turnovers.
“Didn’t play his best because his standards are so high,” Tillman said. “He had a couple good looks that he didn’t hit, a couple turnovers. … So I could tell that he was a little disappointed, and we just talked to him about, ‘Hey, we’re going to need you. So just keep working. We need you down the road.’ And I thought he responded well. Our older guys really helped us late in this game as you hoped they would. We rely on he and Jared a lot, and their goals were very timely.”
The heroics by Wisnauskas and Bernhardt helped mask Maryland’s inability to protect a pair of five-goal advantages at 5-0 with 4:27 left in the first quarter and at 9-4 with 3:45 left in the second.
“We’re human just like everyone,” Bernhardt said. “We’re going to make mistakes. It was a gut check for sure. It’s never going to be perfect. It’s something to build on.”
Senior attackman Connor DeSimone compiled three goals and one assist and junior attackman Joey Epstein added one goal and three assists for the Blue Jays, who absorbed their first six-game losing streak. Junior faceoff specialist Kyle Narewski won 15-of-23 draws and collected a game-high 10 ground balls, and sophomore goalkeeper Tim Marcille made a game-high 11 saves in his first start and second game of his career as injuries sidelined three starters in graduate student goalkeeper Josh Kirson, senior defenseman Jack Lyne and senior midfielder Jack Keogh.
“They had some really good players make some really good plays,” Johns Hopkins coach Peter Milliman said. “I think it just came down to some good plays made by them.”
Big Ten semifinals
University Park, Pa., May 6