Just after Maryland men’s lacrosse midfielder Bubba Fairman scored with three seconds remaining in the first half Sunday, faceoff specialist Austin Henningsen stepped to the dot.
The draw was merely a formality. But as the horn sounded on halftime just after Henningsen scooped up possession midway through the 16-13 win over Rutgers, the senior had reached a historic milestone.
Henningsen’s fourth faceoff win of the night gave him 500 for his career under coach John Tillman. He became the fourth player in Terps history — and first since 1999 — to reach the mark, proving to be a valuable asset for a program whose high-powered attack often turns extra possessions into additional goals.
“You can really appreciate all of his hard work,” Tillman said. “Just his investment and all the sacrifices for the team and what he’s meant to our program.”
Henningsen arrived at Maryland as the No. 25 overall recruit and third-best faceoff specialist in the nation, per Inside Lacrosse. He quickly became Maryland’s top option, starting 14 of 16 games and winning 151 draws — the most ever from a freshman — including a season-high 19 in the Terps’ national championship overtime loss to North Carolina.
That offseason, Henningsen played alongside attackman Jared Bernhardt — who would be arriving in College Park the following season — on the USA Under-19 team. Henningsen won 67 percent of his faceoffs for the gold medal-winning team, earning a place on the All-World Team.
Building off that success, Henningsen played an equally important role in his sophomore season, helping Maryland win its first national championship since 1975. He corralled 7-of-15 attempts in the semifinal win against Denver’s Trevor Baptiste, the all-time NCAA leader in career faceoff wins.
During his junior season, Henningsen had a different experience with the arrival of freshman faceoff specialist Justin Shockey. The freshman started 13 games while Henningsen started five, the first time since Henningsen’s rookie campaign where he didn’t take the majority of attempts.
Still, Tillman said Henningsen maintained a good attitude as he waited for his next chance.
“Everybody wants to start, and everybody would like to take every faceoff,” Tillman said. “What I love about him is that he’s very supportive of whether it’s Justin or [Wesley Janeck], that if they’re facing off he still stays focused. He’s picking them up, he’s helping them out, he’s coaching them and he’s sincerely happy for them, he’s not pouting.”
To begin this season, Henningsen and Shockey split duties at the X. The senior took the first-half draws against Bucknell and the sophomore handled the load in the second half of the season opener.
Against Richmond the next week, the team employed a similar strategy. Henningsen won all 13 of his attempts in the first half before giving way to Shockey for the final 30 minutes. But as Richmond staged a fourth-quarter comeback, Tillman turned back to Henningsen to secure two more faceoff wins and close out the one-goal victory.
With his 15-for-15 performance, Henningsen became the first player in Big Ten history to post a 100 percent clip with at least 15 attempts.
“We just feed off of him,” midfielder Anthony DeMaio said. “When he’s feeling it at the X, we really start to play well on offense and the defense is making stops.”
Henningsen went on to win 22 faceoffs against North Carolina on March 23, becoming just the second player in program history to reach that single-game mark, joining Andy Claxton, the team’s all-time leader in faceoff success.
The Northport, New York, native repeated that 22-win output two weeks later against Michigan to become the first Maryland player to reach that total twice in his career.
For Henningsen, the 500-win milestone is something he’ll appreciate for a brief time before shifting his focus on winning more in his remaining time at Maryland, helping to guide the team’s success.
“It’s incredible, but I’m not satisfied yet. I want to get more,” Henningsen said. “I mean, I’ll cherish it right now and think about, but really I just want to win more.”