No. 5 Maryland men’s lacrosse hosts Michigan looking to start 2021 campaign off with momentum

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

After battling each other in practice for five weeks, the Terps officially welcome their first opponent, Michigan, on Saturday. 

Maryland is 6-0 against the Wolverines since joining the Big Ten. The Terps enter the 2021 season loaded with talent on both ends of the field. Equipped with great positional versatility and flexibility, the Terps can fluctuate players between the attack and midfield positions.

“Having some guys that can play different spots it’s valuable because flexible parts allow you to do more things,” head coach John Tillman said. “The guys that are one-dimensional you’re really limited on the things that you can do. Bringing in Coach Benson, a guy with some different ideas [who] maybe looks at things a little differently and to me that’s what’s really exciting.”

Attackman Jared Bernardt, a 2019 Tewaaraton Finalist, headlines that explosive offense for the Terps, now under the tutelage of new offensive coordinator Bobby Benson. In addition to Bernhardt and the Terps’ other returnees, Maryland welcomes in a pair of very capable graduate transfers at attack in Griffin Brown and Eric Holden. 

Also, the Terps offense has become increasingly comfortable with Benson and the implementation of his offense just a few weeks into his tenure in College Park.

“He’s been awesome,” senior attack/midfielder Anthony DeMaio said of Benson. “I think he’s been really relatable coming in just getting to know the guys. He’s definitely been great, added some stuff to our offense that kind of makes us a little more dynamic. He’s definitely helped with just the relationship part of it.”

Defensively, Maryland returns a solid corps headlined by junior Brett Makar and senior Nick Grill. Grill brings a wealth of experience from his time with the Terps and at Marquette. Makar is the Terps best pound-for-pound defender, consistently marking the opponent’s best attackman.

“I think it’s at a good spot,” Makar said of the defensive chemistry. “Over this last five weeks of preseason, we were kind of able to carry on with what we had going in the fall and reignite the flame we have on our end. We brought back a great group with a solid foundation returning on the defensive end.”

That unit is tasked with slowing down a prolific Michigan offense, which averaged 13.26 goals per game in the abbreviated 2020 season. Junior attackman Bryce Clay and graduate midfielder Avery Myers headline the Wolverines’ offensive attack. Both were named Big Ten preseason players to watch. 

In addition to that tandem, senior midfielder Alex Buckanavage poses a challenge, He possesses a great ability to create for himself, but also facilitate to teammates.

Similar to Maryland, the Wolverines have several scoring threats distributed between both attack and midfield. Early in the season, the Terps’ defensive communication will be tested. It’s effectiveness will be key in limiting the scoring chances of the high-octane Wolverine offense.

Tillman hasn’t yet decided on a starter for the season opener. However, all of the goalies have impressed so far in the preseason, a nice luxury for Tillman and his staff.

Chris Brandau has the most starting experience of the group, while Logan McNaney impressed in his playing time last season. Drew Morris hasn’t started a game yet for the Terps, but his strong preseason could result in his first career start Saturday.

Face-off is at 1 p.m. and the game will be streamed on BTN+.

“Finally knowing you’re going up against a different jersey and a different opponent is definitely exciting, especially it being a conference opponent,” Makar said. “Michigan is a great opponent, it’s gonna be a good challenge for us we’re excited.”