Highlighting history, an in-depth look at the Johns Hopkins-Maryland lacrosse rivalry

Maryland's Mike Mosco (left) checks Johns Hopkins' Greg Kelly in the 1987 meeting. (Courtesy of UMD Archives)

By: Cody Wilcox

Maryland’s lacrosse program is built on consistency. Never get too high, never get too low. Take the season one game at a time and don’t look ahead toward other opponents or postseason play.

Although it may be cliche, it works for head coach John Tillman’s team as the Terps are almost always in contention for titles or championships.

But this week is different. Long-time rival Johns Hopkins is coming to College Park to take on the Terps. And if history is any indicator, Saturday’s game will only add to the legacy between the two programs and schools.

“I always like to start Hopkins week with you know, ‘It’s Hopkins week. Let’s get this thing going, all right?” senior defenseman Curtis Corley said with a smile. “The blue and the red, they don’t really mix too well together.”

Saturday’s meeting will mark the 118th time the two schools have met — and the 111th since Maryland became a varsity program in 1924 — in what most consider one of the greatest rivalries in lacrosse history.

Separated by just over 30 miles and located in the heart of where lacrosse was popularized, the Blue Jays and Terps are consistent powerhouses within the NCAA lacrosse kingdom. The two schools battle over the same high school talent and produce some of the sport’s premier players.

Both programs are surrounded by high expectations every year, whether they return the majority of its team from the previous year or not. Since rankings debuted in 1973, Maryland and Johns Hopkins have both been ranked in the top 10 at the time of their annual meeting in 51 of the 60 games.

Over the years, Johns Hopkins has established themselves as the most decorated team in college lacrosse. The program has 44 championships, including nine NCAA Division I titles, second-most to only Syracuse. Maryland has a total of 12 titles, including three from the NCAA Division I Tournament, with their most recent coming in 2017.

“On most occasions both teams are pretty high — highly ranked. There’s prominent implications for postseason and now the conferences,” Tillman said. “It’s something that you look forward to. It’s something that as players you will remember for a long time.”

But the rivalry wasn’t always such a memorable time for the Maryland faithful.

The Start of Something Special

The first meeting between the two schools occurred in 1895, a time when the University of Maryland was then known as the Maryland Agricultural College. Johns Hopkins won the first meeting 10-0 in a fashion that would embody the next six meetings. From 1896-1920, Johns Hopkins outscored Maryland 60-3, with shutouts until their sixth contest in 1920.

During this time, Johns Hopkins viewed the contest against Maryland as another practice in an effort to tune their game before taking on other powerhouses.

In one edition of the Johns Hopkins News-letter in 1923 it read, “Maryland has been awarded a date in place of Syracuse. This was necessary as it is inadvisable to play three hard games in a row, Maryland should prove easy, giving the team a rest between the Navy and Lehigh games.”

Maryland did not receive public funding until 1916. And the flagship campus did not recognize lacrosse as an official varsity sport until 1924, which is the first year that the Old Liners, the name Maryland teams were referred as, beat the Blue Jays.

By that time, Johns Hopkins had already accumulated 17 championships.

The sport of lacrosse arrived to Baltimore in 1878, two years after Johns Hopkins was founded. With an unfamiliar college attempting to gain acknowledgement in academics, lacrosse was one way Johns Hopkins inserted themselves into the conversation with schools like Yale and Harvard, who also have a long history of the sport.

Although lacrosse is still in the process of growing and reaching new heights, the sport had a much smaller following and participating audience then. And players who were talented had a limited amount of schools that fielded varsity programs, leading to a large amount of local athletes playing at Johns Hopkins or Maryland.

“Around Maryland, a lot of kids are being recruited by both of those schools,” said Tom Flynn, author of Men’s Lacrosse in Maryland: The Pride of the Old Line State. “Also you have guys looking at each other across ball and saying, ‘That’s my guy from my high school’ or ‘That’s the guy I’d like to do better than, because I was playing lacrosse with him for 15 years before I got here.’”

Growing up and coming from the same area and beating your cross-town rival was something that players looked forward to in order to gain bragging rights over their local competition.

“By winning you try to say you picked the better school,” Maryland midfielder Nick Manis told The Diamondback student newspaper in 1978. “And you try to show them up because you see these guys over summer.”

“I think it’s just a mindset when you’re playing Hopkins it’s a team that… when you go to Maryland you just have the hatred for. We respect them, but we always hated them.”

Former Maryland attackman Joe Walters

Testudo Gets Involved

Aside from a two-year break in 1944 and 1945 due to World War II, Maryland and Johns Hopkins have met every year since Maryland’s first varsity season in 1924.

By 1947, Maryland had a chance to do something they had not previously done before: beat Johns Hopkins to claim the championship.

With such high stakes on the line, the rivalry intensified the Thursday before the game when Maryland students entered the Johns Hopkins campus that night and painted sidewalks with Maryland colors of gold and black asserting that “Maryland will beat Hopkins.”

After an anonymous phone call, the Johns Hopkins students were alerted of the messages and launched a counter-attack during the early hours the next morning. The Blue Jays arrived to the Maryland campus and swiped “Testudo,” Maryland’s bronze statue that weighed in excess of 350 pounds and is symbolic of the university.

However, during their retreat, about 25 Johns Hopkins students were captured by Marylanders and brought back to College Park. Maryland students held the John Hopkins thieves as captives and what intended to be a big “M” into some of their heads and forced them to remove the graffiti they had also left earlier that morning.

The location of Testudo, though, continued to be a mystery for the Maryland students, so around 2 a.m. Saturday, the day of the game, they made a rescue attempt. Johns Hopkins, expecting a visit from the Terps, had devised a defensive strategy. Baltimore City police had also been given information on the situation, and more than 200 police officers arrived to the Johns Hopkins campus that morning as well.

Maryland students were met with one entrance to the university having been barricaded with barbed wire and encountered fire hoses at another. Eventually, the Maryland contingent made their way into the dormitory where the floor had been covered with water and soap chips.

The Baltimore City Police defused the situation around 4 a.m., and arrested a total of 11 students, three Johns Hopkins and eight Maryland, for disorderly conduct. But those students would later be released upon a magistrate’s orders, in time to attend the game later that day.

Around that time, Johns Hopkins Dean G. Wilson Shaffer ordered the statue to be dug out from his burial ground and returned prior to the 2:30 p.m. game. The Johns Hopkins students complied with Shaffer’s demands, but not before painting a large blue “H” on the shell of the terrapin.

Johns Hopkins students used paint to decorate Testudo before returning Maryland’s beloved Terrapin in 1947. (Photo by Robert C. Minnick. Courtesy of JHU Archives)

But that wasn’t the worst thing that would happen at the University of Maryland that day, as Johns Hopkins blew out Maryland 15-6 to capture the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association championship.

“Terrapin-napping” and painting Testudo became a common occurrence for rivals and opponents, but the standoff in 1947 was one of the most famous instances. The first time Testudo was reported stolen was in 1937 by 65 Georgetown students, according to the Diamondback in 1963. But over the years, Testudo had been found in lawns of fraternities at the University of Virginia and buried in the sand at Florida State.

From 1937 to 1950 it was estimated that Testudo was painted at least three times annually, according to the Diamondback in 1963.

Shortly after being hidden from the public in a College Park carpentry shop until 1951, Testudo resurfaced and was placed by the front gate of Byrd Football Stadium. But, taking additional steps to ensure Testudo’s traveling days were over, university officials filled the statue with concrete, increasing the statue’s weight by nearly 700 pounds. Testudo was moved to the front of McKeldin Mall in 1965.

No Love Lost

By 1971, the NCAA created an eight-team tournament with the nation divided in four regions and the first ranked team in each division receiving an automatic bid. Maryland won their first crown in 1973, against Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays avenged their loss to the Terps the following year in the championship, winning 17-12 to receive their first NCAA Tournament championship.

Maryland beat Navy in the 1975 title game, but Johns Hopkins rattled off eight NCAA Tournament championships before Maryland was finally able to break through again in 2017.

One of the most-memorable games between the two schools came in 2004 at Homewood Field for what was recognized as the 100th meeting between the two schools.

In front of about 10,500 fans, Johns Hopkins, draped in blue-throwback jerseys, jumped out to an 8-1 lead against Maryland, wearing their own red throwbacks, and never looked back as they beat the Terps 14-10.

Former Maryland attackman Joe Walters, who had two goals and one assist in that game, points to that showdown as one of his most-notable times while at Maryland.

Maryland attackman Joe Walters surveys the field during the 100th meeting. (Courtesy of Joe Walters)

“It was just a special atmosphere that I don’t think can be duplicated in lacrosse. Even though we lost, that was just so memorable to be a part of,” Walters said. “I have pictures from that game that are just so cool to look back and see how — see the fans in the crowd and see the red in the crowd — the blue in the crowd. It was just a really special game.”

Whether the game was at Homewood or in College Park, both teams were going to have fans travel and fill the stands. But there is surely no love lost when both teams take the field.

“I think it’s just a mindset when you’re playing Hopkins it’s a team that… when you go to Maryland you just have the hatred for,” Walters. “We respect them, but we always hated them.”

Former Johns Hopkins midfielder Kyle Harrison, who also played in the 100th game in 2004 and remains good friends with Walters, said the feeling was mutual, and that it stems from history.

“It comes from the folks that have done it before us, and the rivalry extends far beyond that game that we were fortunate to play in,” Harrison said. “So the respect is definitely there, but we don’t love each other, that’s for sure.”

Recent Memories

On July 1, 2014, Maryland and Johns Hopkins joined the Big Ten conference. While all of Maryland’s sports transitioned into the conference, following a long history in the ACC, Johns Hopkins lacrosse program was the only sport that joined the Big Ten, while continuing the rest of their sports at the Division III level. Prior to joining the conference, Johns Hopkins lacrosse had remained independent since becoming a program in 1883.

“It always is a major deal for Hopkins. It was probably good that both Maryland and Hopkins joined the Big Ten,” said Johns Hopkins senior reference archivist Jim Stimpert. “That’s enabled us to continue the rivalry. In fact, in some ways it has more significance since it could have a bearing on who gets into the Big Ten tournament.”

The two schools did just that in last years meeting at Homewood, a game that ultimately decided the Big Ten Regular season champion.

With the two teams tied at seven apiece at the end of regulation, and unable to strike in the first two overtimes, Johns Hopkins and Maryland entered into their first-ever triple-overtime period in their deep history.

Just before the three-minute mark in the third overtime, midfielder Adam DiMillo cut towards the middle of the Johns Hopkins’ defense and attracted two defenders. Attackman Logan Wisnauskas noticed this and tossed a skip pass to midfielder Will Snider.

Snider caught the pass and unloaded a shot towards the back of the Blue Jays’ net, sealing Maryland’s fourth-consecutive victory over their longing rival and capturing the Terps’ fourth consecutive Big Ten regular-season title.

“I mean that’s obviously… a special goal in a special game. I think the game itself is what lacrosse is all about,” Snider said. “It was very cool to be on the receiving end of [Wisnauskas’] feed for that goal. But as far as remembering it, I’ll obviously remember it for the rest of my life.”

Prior to that game, Snider had scored just three goals in his career and racked up two ground balls, spending much of his time on the scout team. But his heroics that day made him a key character in yet another chapter to the storied rivalry.

Similar to almost every year when these two teams meet, Maryland and Johns Hopkins will have a lot on the on the line this time around on Saturday.

The Terps have already clinched their spot in the Big Ten tournament and have the opportunity to share the regular season title with Penn State, should Maryland win and the Nittany Lions lose.

Johns Hopkins, on the other hand, can clinch a spot in the tournament with a win to control its own destiny.

Johns Hopkins (6-6, 2-2) is coming to College Park with a two-game losing streak during a season that would be considered a down-year by its standards. And a loss to the Terps would give the Blue Jays their first losing season since 2010.

But in rivalry games, especially with these two teams, records can be withdrawn and forgotten.  

Johns Hopkins celebrates a score during last season’s 13-10 win over Maryland in the Big Ten tournament final. (Courtesy of Johns Hopkins Athletics)

“It’s just really cool to see how important this game is to a lot of people – not just on our side or their side but all together in the state,” senior attackman Louis Dubick said. “Just how important this game is to so many people, and the rivalry and how intense it is and how physical every time you play them is, and how much it means to both sides is really cool.”

Like so many young fans, Dubick grew up going to the rivalry between Johns Hopkins and Maryland. His father, Marc, played for Maryland lacrosse from 1981-1983, and his grandfather, Harry, played lacrosse for Maryland in 1950 and 1951.

“When you’re a young guy, and you’re dreaming of playing in college lacrosse, this is the game you want to be in,” Tillman said.

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