No. 3 Maryland men’s lacrosse is playing with a renewed appreciation and a heightened sense of camaraderie

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Graduate attackman Griffin Brown rifled a shot top shelf on the man-up opportunity past Johns Hopkins goalie Josh Kirson notching his 100th career goal on Saturday.

Immediately after, Brown’s teammates mobbed him including senior attackman Logan Wisnauskas who lifted him in the air as the other Terps offensive players swarmed around to embrace him. 

The excitement from the sideline was just as palpable with a sea of Terps’ jumping up and down and pumping their fists in the air. That celebration represents a microcosm of how Maryland has celebrated each of its 51 goals and other important plays this season: with an elevated sense of camaraderie and renewed level of excitement.

“There’s definitely a heightened sense of camaraderie, excitement and energy when another gameday rolls around,” senior midfielder Alex Smith said.

That infectious positivity and renewed appreciation for playing lacrosse has transcended throughout the team since the Terps 2020 season ended prematurely after six games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Maryland went 350 days between its first game against Michigan on Feb. 20 and last season’s final game on March 7 against Albany.

Last season’s premature ending brought a great sense of uncertainty for many players like senior attackman Jared Bernhardt who didn’t know if they’d ever be able to put on a Terps uniform again. Now with all of those seniors including Bernhardt and Nick Grill returning, there’s an added sense of excitement with last season’s premature ending.

“Having our season taken away seeing the seniors after the call that COVID’s gonna cancel the season for us or just them sitting in the locker room unable to take their pinny off kind of really hit home for everyone,” Smith said. “So there’s a sense of urgency and camaraderie around the season because everyone understands how fast it can be taken away.”

Despite returning to play, this season has brought unique challenges with the intense COVID-19 protocols the team has to follow in order to keep each other safe. Those protocols include a daily testing regiment as well as altering typical team activities. 

In-person team film sessions during a typical film session have now transitioned to Zoom. The team also has to split lift sessions into smaller groups. Additionally, all 49 players on the roster can’t eat together as gamedays are the only occasions where the entire team is allowed in the locker room at the same time. 

All of these safety precautions have made the Terps’ team activities outside of games and practices largely non-existent. The ability to gather together as a team on game days has helped foster that camaraderie and further appreciation each time the team takes the field.

“I think there is a greater appreciation for what we get to do given last year,” head coach John Tillman said. “And to be honest [it’s] as plain and simple as practice and the games are the only time these kids are together. That’s it, they never hangout as a team like all 49 guys except for games and practice. 

Those safety precautions have also served as an added reminder for the Terps’ to value the time they spend together as a full team because those instances will be few and far between in this unconventional season. 

It’s also provided extra inspiration for the players to spend extra time on the field before and after games embracing with another continuing to foster that the tight-knit community that has come to define the culture of Maryland men’s lacrosse.

“We talk about it a lot, we need to make sure that we really appreciate that and embrace it,” Tillman said. “I think you see a lot of guys coming out a little earlier and stay a little later just cause they miss that connection, they’re not doing that. It’s a little bit of a release for them.”