John Tillman was frustrated.

The Maryland men’s lacrosse coach was on the sidelines for a game at The Spotlight — a high school lacrosse showcase — leading the next group of elite young talent.

There was one player who stood out, but he wasn’t on Tillman’s team. It was the opposing goalkeeper, freshman Aidan Seibel, having a remarkable game in the net. Seibel made countless impressive saves to shut down Tillman’s attack.

“Can you stop saving the damn ball, please?” Seibel recalled Tillman asking.

The two shared a laugh and a short conversation. From that moment, Seibel knew he wanted Tillman to be his college coach.

Tillman might not have known who Seibel was before The Spotlight, but the Maryland commit grew up watching the Terps from Carroll County. He dreamed of one day playing for the two-time national champion coach.

Seibel’s two older brothers both attended Maryland and he made frequent trips to College Park.

His favorite part of his visits was always watching the men’s lacrosse games. Seibel watched the Terps in the 2015 Big Ten tournament with his dad and brothers. It was an ugly loss for Maryland, but a lasting memory for the young fan.

“Something clicked right then and there that if I could one day play in this stadium, all my dreams and my goals would be fulfilled,” Seibel said.

Seibel spent countless hours watching Maryland games on TV as a kid. He idolizes former Terps goalie and current professional lacrosse player Kyle Bernlohr and wears No. 35 because of him.

Now, McDonogh’s five-star goalie hopes to follow Bernlohr’s footsteps when he comes to College Park in 2025 as the No. 1 goalie in the nation.

“It means a hell of a lot that I got to choose my dream school,” Seibel said. “I’ve worked so hard for it.”

[Recruiting roundup: Maryland men’s lacrosse lands five-star goalie]

Recruitment process

Seibel visited Virginia and Princeton in addition to Maryland. His final four included those three and Notre Dame. But in Seibel’s mind, there was never any doubt where he wanted to play college lacrosse. He announced his commitment to Maryland on Sept. 2, the day after the official recruitment period opened.

“He had a really good idea going into September 1, the start of [the recruiting] process, that Maryland was going to be the place for him,” McDonogh coach Andy Hilgartner said. “He did have a bunch of other conversations with other colleges and certainly gave them consideration, but at the end of the day, I think he knew in his heart that he wanted to be a Terp.”

A huge factor in Seibel’s commitment was the strong relationship he and Tillman fostered. The coach attended every one of Seibel’s club and showcase games last summer. Seibel and Hilgartner both agree that Tillman cares deeply for all of his players and will push them to become the best version of themselves.

“Seeing that he cared so much to go out of his way to come to every single one of my games, that meant the world to me,” Seibel said. “I grew up watching him on TV, and that’s just something special to have.”

Lacrosse journey

Instead of saving goals, Seibel started by scoring them. His first position when he began playing as a 7-year-old was attack. That all changed when he was in fourth grade. Down 10-0 at halftime in a rec league game, Seibel had seen enough and made a proposition to his coach.

“I’m tired of losing, can I please step in goal?” Seibel recalled asking.

His coach agreed. Seibel moved to goalie full-time and never left.

Just one year after his position change, Seibel started seeing improvements. Playing in the championship game at the Bay Bridge Brawl tournament, his team fell behind 5-1 in the first half. Seibel pushed through a 102 degree fever and recorded roughly 14 overall saves and secured a 6-5 win to claim the trophy.

“That’s the moment I knew that if I kept working at this, I could really be something special,” Seibel said.

Hilgartner first watched him play as a middle schooler. When it came time for Seibel to pick a high school, Hilgartner identified him as one of the best goalies in the state, a position the Eagles needed. It made sense for both sides.

Seibel started with McDonogh’s junior varsity squad but practiced with the varsity team frequently. He began his sophomore season as varsity’s backup goalkeeper but took the reins midway through the year.

[Maryland men’s lacrosse’s inexperience led to an up-and-down 2023 season]

His first attempt as a starter came in the second half of a 10-2 blowout against Loyola Blakefield. Seibel made five saves after halftime, allowing the Eagles to storm back and cut the deficit to just one in a 14-13 loss.

The next game against St. Mary’s — Seibel’s first as full-time starter — he used his lanky frame to make a number of saves that kept the Eagles in the game.

“There’s no way we’d win that game without him making the saves that he did,” Hilgartner said. “You want your goalie to make the saves that they should make and then steal a couple saves that they shouldn’t … that’s what Aidan’s great at.”

Hilgartner recalls Seibel’s heroics in the semifinals against Boys’ Latin when he made a kicksave with about three seconds left to send the game to overtime. In extra time, Seibel saved a high shot from the goal line extended, reaching out to make the stop before his teammates charged down the field and scored the game-winning goal.

“He was at his best when his best was needed,” Hilgartner said. “By John Wooden’s definition that’s called competitive greatness. … And he certainly was last year for us.”

What’s ahead

Seibel was introduced to current Terp goalkeeper Brian Ruppel at Goaliesmith Lacrosse camp this summer. On Seibel’s official visit, Ruppel showed him around campus and brought him to one of his classes, offering an inside look into what a typical day as a student-athlete at Maryland entails.

As the first commit of the class, Seibel received Tillman’s approval to recruit any of his McDonogh and Team 91 Maryland club teammates who might fit well with the program. Brendan Millon and Bogue Hahn, the No. 1 and No. 14 ranked recruits in the nation respectively, are among the players Seibel is trying to lure to College Park.

“I’m fired up to take on a leadership role. I’m so excited to see who else comes with me to Maryland,” Seibel said. “I think our Maryland ’25 class can be so good to the point where we could probably win a good two or three national championships.”