COLLEGE PARK — The Maryland men’s lacrosse program is two-thirds through its mission.
Two weeks after capturing its sixth regular-season title since joining the Big Ten in 2015, the top-ranked Terps added their fourth league tournament championship to their trophy case with a 17-7 win over No. 4 Rutgers on Saturday night before an announced 2,041 at Maryland Stadium.
Maryland, the top seed in the tournament, improved to 14-0 and became the first team to win the tournament crown on its homefield. The team will presumably be the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament when the 18-team bracket is revealed Sunday at 9 p.m.
After the game, Terps fifth-year senior attackman Logan Wisnauskas took the accomplishments in stride.
“This was just a box we checked,” said the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after compiling 14 points on eight goals and six assists in two games. “We want to get to the main thing. We’re keeping the main thing the main thing. That’s how we’re doing our business and stuff. We’re going to see what happens tomorrow and move on from there.”
Asked to elaborate on the main thing, Wisnauskas replied, “Winning the [national] championship.”
Coach John Tillman took a more relaxed stance.
“It is really important, the conference regular season, the tournament,” he said. “Certainly there are other things that we’re excited about, but we want to make sure we check as many boxes as we can because it’s hard and you’re not going to do it every year. You’re going to try, and some years like this year when we have so much more experience, it’s certainly much more helpful when you stay pretty healthy. So you kind of have to enjoy it while you have it. I’m proud of our guys because it does mean a lot.”
As he has all season, Wisnauskas spearheaded the offensive effort with game highs in both goals (four) and points (seven). The Sykesville resident and Boys’ Latin graduate’s 37th career hat trick is the most by a Terp, distancing himself further from Joe Walters (32).
Fifth-year senior midfielder Anthony DeMaio racked up four goals and two assists, and graduate student midfielder Jonathan Donville posted one goal and three assists. In all, five of Maryland’s six offensive starters finished with at least two points.
Despite the Terps extending their streak of games with at least 10 goals to 38 and defeating an opponent by double digits for the sixth time, Wisnauskas said he and his teammates felt they left more opportunities on the field.
“Playing them the second time around, they were a lot more buttoned-up,” he said of the Scarlet Knights’ defense. “We talked with coach [Bobby] Benson after the game. We didn’t play our best game today, and we all know that. We’re going to watch the film, and we’re going to fix some stuff moving forward into the first round of the playoffs. We’ve got some stuff to work on for sure.”
The unit got plenty of chances thanks to a faceoff unit headed by junior Luke Wierman. He won 20 of 26 draws to raise his season total of faceoff wins to 236 — smashing the previous record of 222 set by Curtis Holmes in 2011 — and scooped up a game-best 12 ground balls.
Wierman got help from graduate student short-stick defensive midfielder Roman Puglise, who amassed five ground balls, two caused turnovers and one assist, and senior long-stick midfielder John Geppert, who picked up three ground balls and even scored a goal.
The defense was anchored by junior goalkeeper Logan McNaney, who made nine saves and allowed only six goals; senior defenseman Brett Makar, who forced two turnovers while limiting senior attackman Mitch Bartolo to one goal and one assist and shutting him out over the final 54:11; and sophomore defenseman Ajax Zappitello, who gave up only one goal to junior attackman Ross Scott.
That unit blanked Rutgers in the second quarter — the team’s first scoreless period of the season — and for 28:23 spanning the first three quarters. The two goals in the first half tied a season low set in a 24-6 romp over Albany on March 12.
Graduate student goalie Colin Kirst stopped a game-high 12 shots for the Scarlet Knights (13-3), who would seem to be a lock to participate in their second consecutive NCAA Tournament. But coach Brian Brecht said he must do a better job of preparing his players for an opponent such as Maryland.
“They’re a very good team. They’re well-coached, they’ve got talented players, and that’s probably the best team in college lacrosse I’ve seen in the last five or 10 years,” he said. “With that being said, it would be nice if we matched up against those guys. We played probably two of the games we didn’t play well at all this year. Now they have a lot to do with it, but I also think that if we could take care of us and not turn the ball over four times clearing the ball, not be offsides, not turn the ball over 13 times in the first half, all of those self-inflicted wounds led to goals.”