(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)
The 2022 Big Ten Men’s Lacrosse Tournament will get underway on Saturday, April 30th with the Quarterfinals. The semifinals and title game will be played on Thursday and Saturday of the following week.
In the quarterfinals, the highest seed will play host. The semifinals and championship game will take place in College Park as top-seeded Maryland will play host.
No. 1 Maryland (12-0, 5-0 Big Ten)
The Maryland Terrapins have been the best team in college lacrosse all season long and, at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be anyone who can slow them down. In Big Ten play, the Terrapins rolled through with an average margin of victory of 9.8 goals per game. That included a 22-7 drubbing of rival Johns Hopkins last week. The closest any other Big Ten team has come to the Terrapins has been Ohio State, who fell 19-12 in the meeting between the two.
Star Player: Logan Wisnauskas, Attack
The all-time points leader in Maryland lacrosse history, Wisnauskas came into the season as the headliner of this offense and has only lived up to the hype as the number one playmaker for this very deep and talent-rich Terrapins’ offense. He leads the way for that unit with 70 points off 40 goals and 30 assists heading into the postseason.
X-Factor: Luke Wierman, Faceoff
The x-factor for this Maryland team lies at the X with the play of faceoff man Luke Wierman. After a 2021 campaign in which he went 45% at the dot and was perhaps the lone worry for an otherwise uber-talented team, Wierman has completely flipped the script and has cemented himself as possibly the most improved player in college lacrosse. He went 206-for-313 (65%) through the regular season. That included six performances in which he went 70% or above at the dot.
Player to Watch: Ajax Zappitello, Defense
Goalie Logan McNaney may be the anchor of this Maryland defense, but out in front of the cage it’s been sophomore Ajax Zappitello that has stepped up as one of the best and most effective cover men in college lacrosse. He might not always stuff the stat sheet, but he has been drawing top matchups all year and having immense success. The pole had caused 17 turnovers while grabbing the same number of ground balls.
No. 2 Rutgers (12-2, 5-1 Big Ten)
The Rutgers Scarlet Knights have beaten every team except the aforementioned Terrapins. For the second consecutive season, they look to be the clear-cut second best team in the Big Ten. The No. 2 seed again, the Scarlet Knights will be looking to avoid the scenario they found themselves in last season in this tournament as they lost in the semifinals to Johns Hopkins. That may be especially true with each of their last two wins (Michigan, Penn State) coming by just one goal.
Star Player: Ross Scott, Attack
That attack unit of Ross Scott, Mitch Bartolo, and Brian Cameron is a dangerous one. And it’s Scott who draws the headlines from that talented unit as he leads the Scarlet Knights with 57 points off 36 goals and 21 assists. A converted midfielder, Scott has proven to be the most dangerous offensive weapon on this Rutgers offense as he can and will attack from multiple spots and defenses have trouble slowing him down. He has had five performances this season where he either scored five goals and/or put up seven points.
X-Factor: Ethan Rall, LSM
Rutgers’ signature NASCAR offense and its effectiveness is one of the aspects that makes this squad so dangerous. Arguably the number one initiator of that offense in transition has been Rall. The LSM not only has a knack for putting the ball on the ground or getting those crucial ground balls, but he can also turn those defensive stops into goals with how well he can take it up field and get that NASCAR offense going. Rall has 25 caused turnovers, 41 ground balls, and four assists on the season.
Player to Watch: Brennan Kamish, SSDM
Speaking of that NASCAR offense, Kamish is another benefactor. Having played exclusively offensive midfield at Detroit Mercy as a freshman as well as his first season with the Scarlet Knights, Kamish possesses a unique offensive skillset that makes him dangerous. In addition to that, he has only continued to prove himself as one of the better defensive midfielders in the Big Ten. Kamish ha knotted four points (3G/1A), grabbed 17 ground balls, and caused nine turnovers thus far in 2022.
No. 3 Ohio State (9-4, 3-2 Big Ten)
The aforementioned two teams are firmly in the NCAA Tournament picture. As for the Ohio State Buckeyes, they are in it but are they firmly in? That question may only be answered based on how they play this Saturday. The Buckeyes can lose to Rutgers or Maryland, whom they fell to in the regular season, in the semifinals or title game but a loss to Michigan in the quarterfinals like last season could really hurt them.
Star Player: Jack Myers, Attack
Myers has been the focal point of this offense and the headliner of this team since the beginning. Tallying 71 points off 31 goals and 40 assists this season, Myers has been the leader for this offense that has continued to show its depth and talent as the season has progressed.
X-Factor: Man-Up Offense
This spot is usually reserved for a player, but you can’t talk about Ohio State and not talk about their man-up unit. Usually manned by Jack Myers, Jackson Reid, Colby Smith, Jason Knox, Zach Ludd, and Trent DiCiccio, the Buckeyes man-up unit is one of the best in college lacrosse as they have converted on 24 of 40 attempts this season. That’s a 60% success rate.
Player to Watch: Bobby Van Buren, Defense
The story around Ohio State’s defense as of recent has been the play of Skylar Wahlund in cage since taking over the starting job in mid-March, but another major piece of the Buckeyes’ defense that has emerged more and more over the course of the season is freshman defenseman Bobby Van Buren. Honored as the Big Ten Freshman of The Year, Van Buren has been as good of a defender as any in college lacrosse and shown to be able to take an opposing team’s top offensive player and give him problems. He has 10 caused turnovers and 20 ground balls in 13 games and eight starts.
No. 4 Johns Hopkins (6-8, 2-3 Big Ten)
Year two of the Peter Milliman era has been tough for the Blue Jays and seemingly got even tougher with a 22-7 blowout loss against Maryland last week. But just like last season, Johns Hopkins will be looking to regroup in the postseason and make some noise in the Big Ten Tournament.
Star Player: Garrett Degnon, Attack
The only All-Big Ten selection out of Johns Hopkins this season, Degnon leads the Blue Jays’ offense with 41 points (34G/7A) and has been one of the most consistent players for a unit that has otherwise, been fairly inconsistent.
X-Factor: Josh Kirson, Goalie
Johns Hopkins’ defense has shown flashes and put on some really good performances this season. Anchoring that unit in cage has been Josh Kirson. The graduate student has made 140 saves with a 46% save percentage. He hasn’t stopped shots at an above 50% mark since Big Ten play starter, but his play is key to the Blue Jays’ success in the postseason.
Player to Watch: Beaudan Szuluk, D/LSM
After starting at close all season, Szuluk moved to LSM while Scott Smith has been bumped down to that spot at close. A physical defender, Szuluk has found some success over the past few games at the LSM spot. That included a four caused turnover game against Penn State.
No. 5 Penn State (3-10, 1-4 Big Ten)
It has been another rough season in Happy Valley. A younger roster takes time to develop and injuries can only make that process longer. In essence, that’s how Penn State’s season has gone. However, they are coming off a near upset of Rutgers, beat Yale, and lost to Penn and Cornell by one. Could they make some noise now?
Star Player: Aleric Fyock, Goalie
With 139 saves on the season and a 50% save percentage, Fyock has single-handedly kept Penn State in many games throughout the season. He had a 21-save day against Yale, followed by 11 and 15-save performance against Penn and Cornell. Fyock made 15 saves with a 65% save percentage in their lone Big Ten win against Michigan.
X-Factor: Grant Haus, SSDM
Penn State can get opportunities in transition off defensive stops. And perhaps nobody has benefited from those transition sequences more than Grant Haus, especially in recent weeks. He has gobbled up 21 ground balls this season and caused six turnovers, but he also has five goals and one assists. Haus and that rope unit are crucial.
Player to Watch: Canyon Birch, Attack
Birch made his first start of the season against Rutgers last week and ended the day with two goals and one assist for three points. A player who has struggled with injuries during his time in Happy Valley and thus not been able to remain a consistent contributor, he can be as dangerous a shooter and dodger as anyone on this roster.
Michigan (7-7, 0-6 Big Ten)
The Michigan Wolverines opened the season with seven consecutive wins. They have now closed the season with seven consecutive wins and they come into this weekend wanting to do all they can to not make that number eight.
Star Player: Josh Zawada, Attack
It’s no secret as to who runs the show on the Michigan offense. Zawada has been the man for the Wolverines for three seasons now as the focal point and leader of this unit since his freshman season. He leads Michigan with 73 points off 40 goals and 33 assists.
X-Factor: Faceoff Unit
The X-factor lies at the X for the Michigan Wolverines. The duo of Nick Rowlett and Justin Wietfeldt have been phenomenal this season, going nearly 60% combined this season. Getting those wins and extra possessions will be crucial if they want a win on Saturday.
Player to Watch: Justin Brown, Midfield
Against Penn State, Brown put up a phenomenal five-goal performance in a near overtime comeback. He then got his first-career start the next week against Rutgers and had three points (2G/1A) in another one-goal loss. He had two goals last week against Ohio State in his third start. Brown is and will be a factor this weekend.
Johns Hopkins vs Penn State: Penn State
Ohio State vs Michigan: Ohio State
Maryland vs Penn State: Maryland
Rutgers vs Ohio State: Rutgers
Maryland vs Rutgers: Maryland