No. 3 Maryland men’s lacrosse hosts No. 20 Johns Hopkins in latest chapter of storied rivalry

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics.)

Despite some new faces on both sides, Maryland (2-0 B1G) and Johns Hopkins (1-1 B1G) will face off for the first time since the 2019 season in the 113th rendition of “The Rivalry” battling for the coveted “Rivalry Trophy”.

“The game means a lot to both schools, [it’s] a game I think everybody gets excited about whether you’re a player, a coach, a member of the community of those two schools,” head coach John Tillman said. “A big game for the state.”

The Blue Jays are led by new head coach Pete Milliman, while the Terps have former Johns Hopkins offensive coordinator Bobby Benson steering their offense. 

Through two games, Maryland has impressed on both ends of the field with commanding 11 and six-goal wins respectively. Jared Bernhardt has continued to spearhead Maryland’s offensive attack with 11 points (5G, 6A) through two games showcasing his elite dodging skillset, but also the ability to set his teammates up as a facilitator. 

Daniel Maltz has thrived in his second season in College Park with 10 points (9G, 1A) finding space with perfectly timed cuts playing off the likes of Bernhardt, Logan Wisnauskas and Anthony DeMaio. Both Wisnauskas and DeMaio have enjoyed strong starts to the 2021 campaign with nine points (6G, 3A) and seven points (3G, 4A) respectively. 

Kyle Long has also been a nice spark offensively, particularly early in games with the team’s first goal in back-to-back games. However, Maryland’s attackmen and midfielders have also been excellent on the ride through two games pestering opposing defenses on clear attempts causing turnovers.

“Just making team’s uncomfortable, riding is just an effort thing,” Wisnauskas said. “Putting forth the effort and making teams think where it’s coming down to the wire. They have to make a decision and kind of throw the ball away. They freeze up and that’s what we’re looking for within the ride.”

Maryland’s defense has impressed at the start of the season as well. Through two games, opponents are averaging eight goals per game and Maryland’s defense has been both cohesive and communicative.

Nick Grill and Brett Makar have spearheaded that strong communication developing into more vocal leaders on the field with their experience. Logan McNaney is coming off a career-high 16-save performance against Penn State, crediting the defense with his success so far this season.

“They take pride in defending whoever’s in the goal,” Tillman said of the defense. “I think they’ve heard about it over the last couple of years, ‘hey our defense isn’t that good and it’s not up to standard’. I think they’ve taken that personally; that’s something that Coach [Jesse Bernhardt] did too because he played here and it means a lot to him.”

That unit will be tasked with slowing down a talented Blue Jays offense led by the tandem of attackman/midfielder Connor DeSimone and attackman Joey Epstein. DeSimone has transitioned to primarily playing attack this season with 10 points (5G, 5A) displaying the ability to score himself, but also create for his teammates. 

Epstein is one of the best dodgers on the team with seven goals so far this season doing most of his damage initiating his dodges from X or at goal-line extended. Despite only scoring two goals in two games, Cole Williams is one of the more imposing attackmen in the league at 6-foot-5, using his height to get his hands free and create some separation.

However, an area where the Terps are looking to improve after some struggles in the first two games is at the faceoff X. Justin Shockey lost all six faceoffs against the Nittany Lions, but Connor Calderone found some success winning seven of 17 faceoffs. 

Expect Tillman and the Terps’ coaching staff to utilize both players against the Blue Jays Matt Narewski who has won 24 of his 41 faceoffs this season.

The first iteration of the rivalry begins at 1:00 p.m. Saturday and will air on BTN Plus. Both teams are scheduled to meet later in the season at Homewood Field with no specified date yet.