Following an undefeated 2022 season that ended in the program’s fourth NCAA championship and the second in the last six years, Maryland men’s lacrosse has high expectations for the 2023 campaign.
The Terps were dominant last spring, going 18-0 en route to being crowned the men’s college lacrosse champions. After notching the first perfect season among all Division I schools since Virginia in 2006, the pressure is on Maryland to avoid a letdown.
“Trying to remind the guys that there is no carryover, you hope you can lean on the leadership to make sure those guys are setting a good example,” coach John Tillman said. “They have that sense of purpose and urgency so that when you’re coming out to practice everyday, you’re trying to improve and you’re trying to treat each day like it is a game.”
The leadership Tillman referred to will come from All-American defenseman Brett Makar. Now donning the iconic No. 1 jersey, the graduate student is the de facto leader of the Terps for 2023.
Last year’s wearer of the No. 1 jersey, Logan Wisnauskas, has graduated. As a result, Makar will be tasked with becoming the Terps’ leader and guiding them through their difficult schedule — which includes four teams ranked in the Inside Lacrosse Preseason Top 20 poll.
“When you play at such a tradition-filled program, people are always going to look forward to playing you,” Makar said. “That’s something you’ve got to wear on your sleeve when you play here, and embrace [it]. People might feel that way about us but we feel the same way.”
The Terps have made the NCAA tournament every year since 2003 — other than the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2020 season in which no national tournament was held — and have reached at least the NCAA quarterfinals in all but one year since Tillman took over the program in 2011.
“‘Be the best’ isn’t just a huddle break, it really is something that sits in your soul,” Makar said. “Everyday you get up, you’re trying to meet that standard, reach that standard and then also raise above it.”
Makar will guide the Terps and look for similar success defensively as they had in 2022, when they allowed the fourth fewest goals in the country.
A key part of that stifling defense is All-American Logan McNaney, who returns in goal for the Terps. The senior allowed the third fewest goals-against average among all Division I goalkeepers a season ago and will look to do more of the same in 2023.
Maryland also brings back All-American Luke Wierman, who ranks top 10 in program history in career face-off wins and had the second best face-off winning percentage in the nation last season.
The offensive side of the ball is where questions are present.
Maryland’s scoring attack will look very different compared to last year’s. The Terps’ top four leading scorers last season have all graduated. Their top returning scorer, junior Eric Malever, will miss the 2023 season after he suffered a leg injury last fall.
Those losses paired with the introduction of a new offensive coordinator in former Terp Jake Bernhardt could lead to less offensive firepower for Maryland. That scoring prowess allowed the Terps to win 15 of last season’s 18 games by five goals or more.
Maryland does not enter the new season as the No. 1 team in the nation. Instead, the Terps are ranked No. 2 in the preseason poll, behind only the Virginia Cavaliers.
Still, Maryland knows all of its opponents are looking to knock off the reigning national champions.
“When you’re at Maryland, you’re getting everybody’s best shot,” Tillman said.