Maryland men’s lacrosse has won six Big Ten regular season titles in the eight years it has been in the conference, only missing out in 2019 and the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
The No. 3 Terps enter Saturday’s rivalry matchup against No. 7 Johns Hopkins in a three-way tie with the Blue Jays and Penn State for first place in the conference standings. Despite that logjam, Maryland has an easy path to its seventh regular season title: win its regular season finale.
“The hypotheticals are there but really we know we’re gonna get one crack, and then we’re not really guaranteed anything else, so let’s make the most of this,” coach John Tillman said.
Maryland’s ability to control its own destiny this weekend is a credit to Tillman’s coaching.
The Terps’ man at the helm lost his top four point-producers to graduation from a season ago. He also lost his fifth — Eric Malever — to multiple leg injuries last fall that ended his junior campaign before it even started.
That loss in production forced Tillman to adjust and create a more egalitarian offense that’s still got his team back in the mix for a host of titles.
The 2022 Terps capitalized on 39.1 percent of their shots, landing more than 70 percent of those looks on goal. The team also had a 39.2 percent offensive efficiency rating.
Those numbers have taken drastic steps down this season: a 28.5 shot percentage with a tick more than 62 percent of the attempts on goal and an offensive efficiency rating of just 28.2 percent.
The Maryland offense, which has had a 50-goal scorer in every full season since 2019, hasn’t been as star-heavy this year. Daniel Kelly leads the group with 22 goals entering the regular season’s final weekend.
In recent years, a two-man show has run Maryland’s offense — Jared Bernhardt and Logan Wisnauskas. But the Terps firepower this season has come from a plethora of options — Kelly is one of six Terps with double-digit goals on the season.
Tillman relied heavily on Kelly and Daniel Maltz as his veteran leaders at the attack early in the season. The duo alone combined for more than 35 percent of Maryland’s goals through the first six games of the season.
But the Terps have spread the scoring after their victory over No. 4 Virginia last month. Since then, Kelly and Maltz have combined for just 22.9 percent of the goals.
Braden Erksa has stepped into a major role since joining the starting lineup in the Terps’ third game of the season. The freshman has 13 goals and 14 assists in his first season in College Park.
Maryland’s attack and midfield starters have accounted for 64.2 percent of its goals this season, a slight increase from last year’s 63.8 percent but well below 2021’s 82.7 percent. The Terps’ bench has excelled — with players like Eric Spanos and Ryan Siracusa getting recent action and combining for 15 goals and five assists.
“I’m really proud of this group, I really am with so many new parts and dealing with some really significant injuries to returners that we were going to lean on, for these guys to put themselves in this position, I am proud of ‘em,” Tillman said.
Tillman’s 2023 offense has been constructed and utilized differently from his past ones. Despite that, he’s one game away from clinching yet another conference regular season title.
“We’ve had our ups-and-downs, but it’s a great group to be around,” Tillman said. “They’re learning a lot about life, how important it is to try and come out everyday and be focused, prepare and be resilient, and learn how to fail and make mistakes and then take those things and grow and keep moving.”