Maryland men’s lacrosse accomplished plenty, but the 2022 national title offered true vindication

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

When the Maryland men’s lacrosse entered the 2022 season as the No. 2 team in the nation, one wondered how, with a largely similar roster from 2021, the Terps could manage to bounce back from last year’s historic campaign and its infamous conclusion. 

The answer? Put together a season better than the one before it — one of the greatest seasons in NCAA lacrosse history. 

A tight loss to Virginia in the championship game ended Maryland’s dream of a perfect season in 2021. And, for as great of a year that they had up until that point, the game served as a singular blemish on an otherwise spotless record.

But even with that season’s finish etched in recent memory, a perfect season was never the intent that head coach John Tillman or his team had planned for coming into 2022.

“Especially with everything going on in the world and all the pressure that kids put on themselves, that’s like the one thing we stay away from our guys,” Tillman said. “We never ask them to be perfect. We’re all flawed. We all make mistakes.”

A perfect record was merely an outcome of profound focus — not a goal. 

The teammates reiterated the same mindset throughout the season, there was only one true objective in mind – to be national champions. It didn’t matter if the team won every game or if they were conference champions, the national championship was the only thing that truly mattered.

“This was just a box we checked,” attacker Logan Wisnauskas said after winning the Big Ten Championship. “We want, ultimately, to get the main thing. We’re keeping the main thing the main thing.”

Wisnauskas, the eventual 2022 Tewaaraton award winner, went on to break the team records for points and goals, but his celebration after each milestone was minimal at best — until, of course, he had his hands on the national championship trophy. 

“[Wisnauskas is] just so focused and dialed in and he’s not about individual accomplishments,” Tillman said. “And that’s what I love about him, but you kind of know 20 years down the road, there’ll be some things to be super proud of.”

His record performances throughout the season helped him win both the Lt. Raymond Enners and the Tewaaraton award, following in the footsteps of last year’s leader, attacker Jared Bernhardt, who was the recipient of both awards the year prior.

Brett Makar’s Big Ten Defensive player of the year award, Tillman’s Big Ten coach of the year award and the numerous All-Americans and league and national leaders that littered the roster mirrored last year’s efforts as well.

With Wisnauskas, Maryland’s attack was vicious, but whether it was the team’s midfield or defense, there seemingly wasn’t much of a weakness. 

When it came to specialists, the Terps had one of the best. FOGO Luke Wierman’s faceoff game saw incredible improvement, jumping from a 45% success rate in 2021 to an astounding 66% in 2022, which was second in the nation. 

But when the championship game arrived, at the same place where their dreams of perfection died one year prior, it was their goalie, Logan McNaney, who saved the day for the Terps.

With only one day of rest in between games, the unit was exhausted heading into Championship Monday. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like Saturday,” Tillman said. “What people don’t get about Monday, we were totally running out of gas.”

And with only one day to prepare, the championship game against Cornell was one of the Terps’ worst performances of the season.

In the second half, the defueled Maryland side was running on empty. The team’s, 9-2, lead was fading fast. The Terps spent almost 27 minutes without a goal on the receiving end of the type of run they seemed so familiar with dealing to opponents of all strengths. 

With the Big Red gaining momentum, the creeping dread of losing the championship game twice in a row was felt.

But Maryland had no intention of losing out on the lone trophy it started the season to play for. The award Wisnauskas, midfielder Anthony DeMaio and others came for a fifth year to win. There would be no timely run or a one man scoring effort to finish, but there was a defensive effort that kept Maryland ahead until the final horn. 

And when that horn blew and the score read 9-7 with the Terps ahead, Maryland faithful roared in support. The field was stormed and McNaney was immediately piled on by his teammates. Makar could do nothing but point to the sky and thank God in tears. 

The Terps were champions again — and they were perfect, too.