Terps men’s and women’s lacrosse make their joint return to Championship Weekend

The University of Maryland’s men’s and women’s lacrosse teams don’t have automatic berths into Championship Weekend, it only seems that way.

For the eighth time in eleven completed seasons since 2011, both teams have advanced to the Final Four — the women’s team battle Boston College on Friday (with North Carolina and Northwestern in the other semifinal) while the Men play Princeton on Saturday (Cornell and Rutgers rounding things out).

“To be able to go out and compete Memorial Day weekend is something great for the University of Maryland and says something about Maryland lacrosse, and how special that is to play here,” Women’s Coach Cathy Reese said earlier this week. “Really pulling for the men — think it’s going to be a great weekend for them. It’s nice that our games aren’t on the same days so we get to kind of watch each other. And for all Maryland fans who can hopefully celebrate and support both teams.”

Reese has the Terps back in the Final Four after slipping in the National Quarterfinals by one goal in 2021, and seeing their season canceled by COVID-19 the previous spring. Eight of the 19-1 Terps’ eleven straight wins have come against ranked foes.

“It’s awesome — these guys have earned it and they belong there. They earned the number two seed in the Tournament, they had two great tournament wins,” Reese said. “Our message to them is just enjoy this, you’re going to walk on the field and enjoy it. know you’re meant to be there enjoy your surroundings and celebrate yourself and what you’ve done so far, take a deep breath and let’s get down to business.”

Boston College (18-3) ranks third in the nation in scoring and is led by Charlotte North’s 82 goals and 105 points. But the Eagles are far from one-dimensional.

“They’re good on the offensive end, good on the defensive end, good in the goal-cage, and we know it’s going to be a really tough game,” Reese said. “Our message to our team this week is to really focus on us. It’s technically not about them — it’s about us and what we need to do to step up and be successful.”

And Maryland has the goods to get it done: they rank second nationally in scoring defense and have given up just 11 goals in two NCAA Tournament wins.

“Speaking defensively, we’ve just been playing together and communicating really well and being a cohesive unit,” Defender Abby Bosco said. “And when we play together, that’s when we’re really clicking and playing great.”

Bosco is one of four First Team All-Americans on the roster: leading scorer Aurora Cordingley (66 goals and 50 assists), junior attacker Hannah Leubecker (57 goals), and junior goaltender Emily Sterling round out the quartet.

Offensive balance has been the key to the success of an attack that scored the eighth most goals in Division I.

“That mentality of always going hard and selflessness,” Leubecker said. “It doesn’t matter who scores on our offense, everybody is so good-we’re all good at different things.”

And this team is great at not beating themselves, having committed the fewest turnovers in the country.

After winning its first two tournament games on-campus, Maryland heads up I-95 to Homewood Field on the campus of Johns Hopkins University for Championship Weekend.

“We’ll enjoy our time up in Baltimore but for our staff this group is important to us — and I’ve enjoyed every moment of this season through the ups and downs,” Reese said. “We wanna just make sure that when we step on the field at Homewood on Friday night: we can be proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, hungry for what’s ahead, but really enjoy the moment that we’re in.”

Aurora Cordingley and Logan Wisnauskas were both named All-Americans for the University of Maryland this season. The two hope to capitalize on their strong seasons and deliver an NCAA championship for the Terps. (Courtesy University of Maryland)

The Maryland Men (16-0) take the nation’s number one offense (18.5 goals per game) to East Hartford, Connecticut, for Saturday’s semifinal showdown. Coach John Tillman has a ton of experience on his roster, with his top five scorers either fifth-year (COVID exemption) or graduate students.

It’s a group that knows how to play together and do the little things that loom large.

“Selfless parts, guys sharing the ball knowing you can get it back,” Tillman said. “I’d be crazy if I didn’t mention our ability to clear the ball well, our ability on ground balls.”

They’re led by First Team All-American attacker Logan Wisnauskas (55 goals and 40 assists).

“He’s just so darn consistent. Every day it’s laser-focused,” Tillman said. “Just every single thing matters to him like every pass, making sure it’s a good pass, getting those ground balls, getting our team organized.”

It’s been said that possession is nine-tenths of the law, and that translates to college lacrosse.

Terps faceoff specialist Luke Wierman also earned First Team All-American honors and his growth has helped turn the offense from dangerous to dominant.

“Luke’s development — I’m not sure a lot of people could have anticipated — it would be hard for us to say he would go from 45% (faceoffs won) to 66 in one year,” Tillman said. “I haven’t seen anything like it in 30 years. A credit to him and all the wing guys.”

Defensively the Terps allowed the fourth fewest goals in Division I with short-stick defensive midfielder Roman Puglise and defenseman Brett Makar being voted First Team All-American. When did Makar know this team was special?

“Day one,” the senior said. “Really once we got back (from holiday break) in January. You really saw a different type of focus from this group, putting the blinders on all year.

They’ll have their hands full with a Princeton offense that ranks fifth best in the nation and one they had trouble of disposing in their February regular season meeting (a 15-10 Terrapin win).

“I didn’t feel like the last time we played them we played our best defensive game,” Tillman said.

“They got good looks — looks that we have to do just a better job with that — we gotta be more on point,” Tillman continued. “And then for us at the other end, they’re a really good defense — they don’t like to slide — so we’re gonna have to win some matchups and finish. Their goalie had 19 saves last time and we gotta do a better job putting the ball in the back of the net.”

There hasn’t been an unbeaten National Champion in Men’s Division I Lacrosse since Virginia went 17-0 in 2006. And even though there is that opportunity in the room for this team, the chance to earn more practices and another 60 minutes of game-time on the field to be together has this team primed to play.

“They’re just connected and they enjoy being with each other,” Tillman said. “So as much as it’s winning and competition it’s, ‘hey we keep this thing going because if not we’re not gonna be together and it’s all over’, so there’s that much more motivation to be together longer.”

But when the seasons and careers do finally end — win or lose — for the Maryland men and women, they’ll always be a part of a larger family of alumni and former players.

“To get Maryland — our program and our team — to Championship Weekend, that means our alums can go, our fans can go,” Tillman said. “Former players to be on hand and gather, celebrate relationships and friendships, the program. So it’s a great thing to be able to offer up.”

Whether it’s Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Hartford or 3 p.m. Friday in Baltimore.

“For us to walk out of the locker rooms at Homewood and to turn around and see hopefully a ton of Maryland alums in the stands supporting the 2022 Terps is really special,” Reese said. “There’s really something special about being a part of this program.”

Dave Preston

Dave has been in the D.C. area for 10 years and in addition to working at WTOP since 2002 has also been on the air at Westwood One/CBS Radio as well as Red Zebra Broadcasting (Redskins Network).

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