Before the this season, Logan McNaney had made two career starts. But in seven starts so far this year, McNaney has the best save percentage among starting goalies in the Big Ten.
With minimal experience coming into this year, the 5-foot-8 sophomore has looked like a seasoned veteran in the cage for Maryland men’s lacrosse.
But he hasn’t done it all by himself. Led by junior Brett Makar and seniors Nick Grill and Matt Rahill, Maryland’s close defense has made McNaney’s adjustment to full-time starter this season much smoother.
“Logan is the young guy back there, but those guys make his job easier,” coach John Tillman said. “It’s never easy, but I also think his demeanor gives them a lot of confidence just because he’s pretty steady [and] poised.”
No. 1 Maryland will travel to Michigan Saturday to face the second-to-last-place Wolverines, who McNaney and the Terps blew out in the season opener, 20-9. Despite the large margin of victory, McNaney turned in one of his worst games all season, saving just six of Michigan’s 15 shots on goal.
Since then, the Corning, New York, native has had six games to improve and build a strong rapport with Makar, Grill and Rahill. In those contests, McNaney gained respect from the guys who protect him.
“Logan’s done a great job for us,” Rahill said. “Even though he is a younger guy, he’s been doing really well.”
The appreciation is mutual, as the back three defenders have been exceptional so far this season.
Grill, in his second year in College Park since transferring from Marquette, racked up three Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week awards, leading the conference with 12 caused turnovers.
Makar earned his first career Defensive Player of the Week honor after posting career highs in caused turnovers and ground balls against Penn State last Saturday. Rahill has also put together a nice season of his own as an integral force keeping Maryland’s last row of defense together.
“We have a great relationship,” Rahill said. “Everyone’s on the same page, and he does a good job of holding everyone accountable and kind of keeping us in check, whether we are doing the right thing or the wrong thing on the field.”
McNaney and the Terps’ defense will look to hold their opponent to single digits for the fifth time this year Saturday — and for the second time against Michigan. After holding Penn State to 10 goals last time out, that seems achievable.
With Maryland off to its best start since 2014, it’s tough not to notice how much the goalie and close defense have contributed thus far. From the sidelines, Tillman sees a group of four that hardly ever skips a beat.
“One of the reasons why those guys are so successful is how well they’re working together,” Tillman said. “All those guys want to do is play well, play well together, take a lot of pride and make sure they kind of run that end of the field.