The Terps clinched sole possession of the Big Ten regular season title.
There was an empty net and with it, there was an open man with the ball. It was goalkeeper Logan McNaney with possession, over 50 yards from the unmanned cage. It looked impossible. But the 10 man ride was working in his favor and as this season has proved, if there’s a will to score, there’s certainly a way.
McNaney found a way on the team’s first score of the second half with a high arching full-field bomb placed perfectly between the posts. After the ball dribbled in past the goal line, his teammates, backed by the roaring yells of the Maryland faithful, rushed to congratulate him on his once-in-a-lifetime play and celebrate the commanding six point advantage. The energy was palpable and the Terps were having fun.
The moment also proved to be overwhelmingly advantageous in yielding differing emotions for the Buckeyes, demoralizing the once leading road team to an emotional abyss. From there, the game was solely in Maryland’s possession.
“That [goal] gave us a lot of momentum,” attacker Bubba Fairman said. “We practiced 10-man all the time so for our goalie to come out and make the right play was phenomenal.”
There has always been a particular uniqueness with this Maryland men’s lacrosse team. Its unselfishness and relentless ability to score at will are traits unlike any team this program has graced in recent memory. For one last time, Maryland fans got to enjoy the excellence of this Terps team, were treated with an 18-8 victory over Ohio State and helped vitalize the Terps early en route to their first 9-0 start since 1987.
“I’m honestly proud of our guys. To get to nine [wins] and to be outright champs when a year ago [we were] wondering what was gonna happen and not knowing whether or not we’d get back on the field,” head coach John Tillman said. “I’m very proud of our guys and what we’ve done.”
If there was anything pronounced about the Terps’ play on Saturday, it was the energy that engulfed the stadium within the first minute of the contest. The crowd’s screams of jubilation after just about every big play added to the effort and helped ease the suffering of the deficit they were faced with for the better part of the first quarter.
“I like the fact that we were fired up to start the game — maybe a little too fired up,” Tillman said. “Defensively, I thought we had it and I thought offensively maybe we were a little too excited but we were gonna live with that.”
After falling 2-1 following a pair of tidy finishes by the Buckeyes, Maryland relentlessly searched for an equalizer. And to its chagrin, just about everything it sent towards the cage either hit the frame or was entirely off the mark. The crowd remained patient and carried on with the same excitement it had started with. Every shot was followed by exclamatory jeers, whether in disappointment or shock of the unfinished result of each beaming shot throughout Maryland’s drought.
“It’s cool to look around and see how many people care about this place,” Fairman said. “That’s part of the reason why we play so hard and that’s part of the reason we’ve been having success … they provided a big spark for us and we’re really grateful for all our fans.”
It wasn’t long before freshman midfielder Jack Koras rewarded the Maryland faithful with a sweeping finish right at the doorstep of the crease. After nearly 12 minutes of less than spectacular offense that had produced eight shots and just one attacker Logan Wisnauskas score, Maryland equalized and eventually took control in a match that was theirs for the taking. All thanks to the Maryland fans, cheering on their No. 1 Terps for one last time at home in a sold-out stadium with limited seating due to COVID-19.
With the early game jitters so characteristic to this year’s squad somewhat out of the way, the Terps began to orchestrate some play more reminiscent of their No. 1 billing.
“We settled in, started moving the ball and spinning it and good things happened,” Tillman said.
At the start of the second, midfielder Anthony DeMaio scored from range with the ball seemingly on a string to grant Maryland its second (and final) lead of the game.
His score was eventually followed by attacker Daniel Maltz who beat the Buckeye’s goaltender with his signature ball fake shot at the crease.
Ohio State responded with a goal to moderately silence the then exceedingly confident Maryland fans. But in his profound brilliance, attacker Jared Bernhardt conjured a hat-trick in two minutes of game time. Each goal topped the one before it. His third and easily the most impressive of the game, was while falling backwards on the turf, avoiding the Buckeye defender positioned in front of him.
Bernhardt’s run, entertaining and impactful, was the timely dose of energy the crowd and players needed to avoid a more worrisome affair against an inspired Buckeyes team.
The hopes of victory declined following the score and Maltz punctuated the first half with a final goal to extend the lead to 8-3 heading into the break. The five-point lead ballooned to eight by the end of the third. A McNaney goal, a second Bernhardt hat-trick and a dwindling, but still prominent defensive effort helped pull Maryland the rest of the way, finalizing this season’s unusual home campaign with an encouraging finish — a perfect conclusion to a season unlike any before it.
Three things to know
1. Luke Wierman’s first start at the faceoff. Luke Wierman finally got the chance to start at FOGO after weeks of proving his worth at the position. In front of the clamoring home fans and against one of the nation’s best faceoff specialists, Wierman refused to disappoint, winning 13 of his 27 attempts. Though he was eventually beat by Inacio in the final minutes of the contest, his initial success was a step in the right direction.
“Luke Wierman getting his first start, I thought was fantastic,” Tillman said. “He really set the tone for us in his first start and really helped us get a lot of possessions in the second quarter to get things going.”
2. Maryland wins the Big Ten regular season outright. With the win, Maryland decisively wins the Big Ten regular season title and enters its final game of the season with an opportunity to finish the regular season undefeated. This marks the fifth time since 2015 that the Terps have won this title. The last time Maryland won the regular season was in 2018 when the Terps went on to play in the semifinals of the NCAA championship.
3. Logan McNaney had a day. McNaney has quickly become a centerpiece of the team’s defense in his short time with the team and took on a brief role as a scorer to net his first career goal from the opposite end of the field. His 63% save percentage, which at the majority of the contest exceeded 70%, along with his 12 saves helped punctuate the defense and render Ohio State’s long possessions pointless on plenty of occasions.
“I try not to get overconfident, try to stay humble and poised,” said McNaney.