No. 2 Maryland men’s lacrosse excited for 2021 campaign after long offseason

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Maryland is perennially known as one of the top programs in the country— this season is no different as the Terps return a talented veteran corps accompanied by a slew of impressive freshmen.

Before last season’s shutdown, the Terps were 5-1, once again looking to make a deep NCAA Tournament run and play on Memorial Day Weekend. The Terps went 311 days between their final game last season against Albany on March 7 and Jan. 12, the first day of practice for the 2021 season. 

That extremely long layoff without lacrosse was the longest stretch of many player’s lives, missing the sport that was such a substantial part of their youth and college experience.

“I think that was the longest I’ve gone without playing lacrosse, I’m sure [for] a lot of guys since they were little,” midfielder Roman Puglise said. “It’s been fun, there’s been a lot of energy at practice. Everyone has come back with an added purpose: put their head down and continued to work.”

Offensively, Maryland welcomes back a plethora of talent including 2019 Tewaaraton Award Finalist Jared Bernhardt. He returned to the Terps after pondering playing football for his final season of collegiate eligibility. Bernhardt staying in College Park, gives Maryland a clear point man for initiating its offensive attack.

However, Bernhardt is surrounded by plenty of capable veteran players —including fellow attackman senior Logan Wisnauskas and the senior midfield tandem of Bubba Fairman and Anthony DeMaio. The Terps also added graduate transfer attackman Griffin Brown who scored 21 goals at Colgate last season.

In addition to that veteran experience, the Terps have the luxury of utilizing some impressive young players who can also contribute. The trio of sophomore attackman Daniel Maltz who scored 18 points last season plus the additions of freshman Eric Malever and Daniel Kelly gives the Terps further scoring depth and versatility at attack. Malever and Kelly ranked as Inside Lacrosse’s No. 7 and No. 19 recruits respectively in 2020.

With all of those talented weapons offensively, new offensive coordinator and interim assistant Bobby Benson will be leading that group. Benson comes from Johns Hopkins where he served as the Blue Jays offensive coordinator the previous 14 years. He replaces J.L. Reppert who was named the head coach at Holy Cross on Jan. 22.

“The opportunity to get Coach Benson I thought was a wonderful opportunity,” head coach John Tillman said. “He’s been in the league since the inception of the league. He’s got a lot of familiarity not only with our team, but the other team’s we’re going to play. I thought bringing somebody in that has a different background, not just a guy that all he knows is Maryland was really healthy for us.”

That experience isn’t exclusive to the offensive side of the ball as the Terps defense also returns a contingent of veteran players. Senior midfielders Puglise and Alex Smith headline the defensive midfield group as the tandem has appeared in a combined 63 games at Maryland. 

Sophomore Matt Rahill and junior John Geppert offer the positional versatility to play long-stick midfielder or close defense, depending on how defensive coordinator Jesse Bernhardt elects to employ them.

Junior Brett Makar is expected to be a key piece that drives Maryland’s defensive attack, having started every game in his previous two years at Maryland. The Yorktown, New York native has consistently matched up against the opponent’s best attackman and is well versed with facing talented competition. 

Rounding out the stout defense, senior Nick Grill returns after starting every game in his first season in College Park last year. The senior has appeared in 49 career games, another guy who can help impart some veteran wisdom for some of Maryland’s younger defenders. One of those players that Grill can help mentor is fellow sophomore defender BJ Burlace, a potentially impactful transfer from Yale.

Goaltender is really the only position on Maryland’s roster where there’s some uncertainty with several capable players, but no sure starter entering the season. Last season, sophomore Logan McNaney and Chris Brandau split time with McNaney starting two games and Brandau starting four. However, the Terps also have senior Drew Morris, who’s never started, but has had a strong offseason, according to Tillman.

“Competition has been really good, I think right now we feel comfortable with any of those guys going in there,” Tillman said. “I think we have some really good options, it makes for a very difficult decision. I think we all sleep better at night knowing that whoever goes in there I think is going to do a really good job.”

Maryland kicks off its much awaited all conference schedule as it hosts Michigan on Feb. 20.

“I think I’m really excited for the guys,” Tillman said. “We love these guys so much and they sacrifice so much. For them to be able to put on the jersey, run around the field and do what they’re passionate about, I’m really excited for them.”