Maryland men’s lacrosse garners historic comparisons as the team enters the Final Four

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

The unforeseen happenings of this magical season for Maryland men’s lacrosse begs an important question: Could this Maryland team be one of the best college lacrosse teams ever?

Usually, questions like these can reek of hyperbole, but Virginia head coach Lars Tiffany expressed similar high praise following their, 18-9, loss to the top-seeded Terps. 

“We’ve just faced, in my opinion, the best team in the last 16 years,” Tiffany said.

To Tiffany, a generational team, like Maryland, emerges once every decade-and-a-half.

“When I think about the great teams of all time in college lacrosse, I think about the 1990 Syracuse Orangemen,” Tiffany said. “Sixteen years later, it was the Virginia Cavaliers, 2006 – that undefeated season that Dom Starsia led his team with, having only one close game the whole way.”

This season’s squad shares several similarities with the 2006 Virginia team, which was the last team to finish the season without a loss.

The Terps have also only had one game so far this season decided by three goals or less. The team has not only won all of their games so far, but they have done so convincingly. 

“I think the Maryland Terrapins, another 16 years later, belong in that upper, upper echelon,” Tiffany said. “There just isn’t a weakness.”

Maryland has only seemed to have gotten better throughout the year, too. So far, the tournament games have played out like an eighteen-wheeler rolling over a bug. In four of the past five games, the group has doubled, if not tripled, if not quadrupled their opponent in goals scored.

The end result has left opposing coaches with nothing but praise for their competitor.

“[This is] certainly the best Maryland team that I’ve seen,” Vermont head coach Chris Feifs said following their, 21-5, loss to the Terps. 

Feifs was a former Maryland player from 2004 to 2007, but he had never seen anything like this current squad.

“As a Maryland alum, I’m really impressed and really proud of [what] coach [John] Tillman and coach [Jesse] Bernhardt and coach [Bobby] Benson have done with that program,” Feifs said. “It’s impressive to see.”

All this talk could be counting chickens before they hatch. Maryland was similarly undefeated a year prior before falling one game short. 

Still, though, this year’s team is better than last year’s team in nearly every major category except turnovers. 

The Terps still, though, have two more games to win before their story is solidified.

“We all know what the job is,” midfielder Anthony DeMaio said. “You just gotta finish that job.”

The Terps play Saturday afternoon in a semifinals contest against a skilled Princeton side. When the two teams met earlier in the season, Maryland won, 15-10, but the Tigers struggled with injuries, being without two of their top face off specialists. 

This could be why head coach John Tillman, as he usually does, anticipates a tougher battle.

“I think they’ve improved greatly from that point in time,” Tillman said.

The Terps will have their hands full against a Princeton defense which coach Tillman described as a “who’s who” of recruits. The Tigers have put together two strong defensive showings in a row, holding both of their opponents to a combined 15 points.

Given Princeton’s defensive athleticism, Maryland’s offense might see more pressure than what they saw with Virginia’s implemented zone defense the week prior.  

“You kind of have your work cut out for you to get good shots,” Tillman said. “And their goalie is as good a goalie as we’ve seen all year.”

The Terps have been historically great this season, but Tillman wants them to be better.

“We’re going to have to play our best game of the year to come out with a win,” Tillman said.