(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)
Welcome to the Fall Snapshot series. Throughout the fall I will be taking an early look at all 75 DI men’s college lacrosse teams and giving a snapshot of where each is heading into the 2023 season.
Head Coach: John Tillman (13th Season, 2011-Current)
Maryland 2022 Record: 18-0 (5-0 Big Ten)
Key Departures: Logan Wisnauskas (A), Keegan Khan (A), Anthony DeMaio (A/M), Jonathan Donville (A/M)
Key Returners: Owen Murphy (A), Kyle Long (M), Luke Wierman (FO), Ajax Zappitello (D), Brett Makar (D), Logan McNaney (G)
Transfer Additions: Donal Mullane (A, Bowdoin), Donovan Lacey (SSDM, Sacred Heart), Teddy Dolan (Binghamton, G)
Since John Tillman arrived in College Park ahead of the 2011 season, the Maryland Terrapins have nothing but success to show. Under Tillman, Maryland has never missed the NCAA Tournament and made it to Championship Weekend nine times. Seven of those instances saw the Terrapins advance to the national title game. Maryland has come out on top two of those times (2017, 2022).
Of all the success that Maryland has had during the Tillman era, last season proved to be its best season yet. Featuring the best and deepest offense and defense, as well as a drastically improved faceoff room, the Terrapins went 18-0 and took down Cornell to win the program’s fourth NCAA Championship, and become the first unbeaten champion since 2006 Virginia. In its run, Maryland beat its opponents by a scoring margin of 8.67 goals per game.
Heading into the 2023 season, Maryland loses a good chunk of talent and especially so on the offensive end. However, it also returns nearly all its top-end pieces on close defense. While there are some questions surrounding this team heading into the spring, the expectations remain the same and a return to Championship Weekend wouldn’t at all be surprising.
Who Runs The Offense?
After featuring what can only be described as a seemingly unbeatable and deep motion offense, Maryland will enter 2023 without each of its top five scorers last season. That includes Tewaaaraton Award winner Logan Wisnauskas, who led the way in 2022 and leaves College Park as the Terrapins’ all-time program leader in goals (205) and points (340), as well as the program record-holder for points in a season (103). Keegan Khan (35G/28A), Anthony DeMaio (33G/21A), and Jonathan Donville (31G/22A) have moved on while Eric Malever (26G/22A) will miss the season due to a right leg/knee injury sustained this spring.
Having last so much talent off a unit that was so dominant creates a host of questions surrounding this offense. Chief among them is who takes the reigns and puts on that No. 1 jersey as the leader or quarterback of this Terrapins offense?
Kyle Long (17G/25A) returns after being the sixth-leading scorer for the Terrapins in 2022. Reserves Owen Murphy (34G/5A) and Jack Brennan (13G/7A), as well as Daniel Maltz (10G/7A), among plenty of others. Even with the injury to Malever, the Terrapins have a solid foundation to build this offense off of. Now who will be the leader of that unit is something to watch closely with this team.
How Strong is The Rope Unit?
Maryland returns each of its three starting close defensemen in Ajax Zappitello (28GB/27CT) and Brett Makar (32GB/15CT), as well as goalie Logan McNaney (200 saves, 59%). It’s a lot of talent back from a unit that allowed 9.0 goals per game last season as a top five scoring defense in DI.
Despite that talent returning, there are some major pieces that will need to be replaced on the back end and each of those spots lie in the middle of the field as Maryland loses Bubba Fairman, Roman Puglise, Alex Smith and Jake Higgins at the SSDM spot.
The Terrapins won’t be completely green at that spot as Sacred Heart grad transfer Donovan Lacey is expected to be an immediate impact at the position. Reports from the fall have freshman Geordy Holmes and junior Alex Wicks running alongside Lacey at the position. It will be tough to replace what was lost, but a solid foundation is there to build upon.
Can Maryland Repeat?
In 2022, the Maryland had what many consider to be the greatest team of all time. That team went 18-0 and became the 14th undefeated champion in NCAA history and the first to accomplish that feat since 2006. Four of those other undefeated champions were back-to-back unbeaten champs. Cornell did it in 1976 and 1977 while North Carolina achieved the same feat in 1981 and 1982. Johns Hopkins’ unbeaten 1979 sat in between a pair of one loss Hopkins championship seasons. Hopkins also followed up its 1984 unbeaten season with another title. Syracuse did the same after an unbeaten title run in 1988 and then also went unbeaten in 1990.
Since that 1990 season, three programs have won consecutive tiles. Princeton pulled off the three peat from 1996 to 1998 while Syracuse went back-to-back in 2008 and 2009. Virginia achieved the same feat (albeit under different circumstances) with titles in 2019 and 2021.
History shows that repeating as champion is not impossible. However, it is still the most difficult thing to do in all of sports. Maryland has been known to reload better than any program in college lacrosse under John Tillman. In 2023, can the Terrapins reload in such a manner that another title is in the future for this program?
Potential Breakout Player
Daniel Kelly, Attack, Junior
A highly-rated recruit out of high school, Kelly has been a reserve for the Terrapins each of the past two seasons. He had six goals and one assists in 2022 in 14 games of action. With the losses on offense, Kelly could be one of those younger players who takes a big jump this spring.
Maryland brings in another strong freshman class with its 2022 recruiting efforts. The class is headlined by a strong defensive crop that features defenseman AJ Larkin (Boy’s Latin, Md.) and LSM Will Schaller (The Hill, Pa.). Florida native Aidan Aitken (Salisbury, Conn.) headlined the offensive haul as an impact playmaker at the midfield. Each of those three are top 50 prospects, per Inside Lacrosse.