Fall Ball Focus: Who's No. 1? Maryland Has Options

PHOTO BY KEVIN P. TUCKER


Maryland will compete against the U.S. national team this weekend at the USA Lacrosse Fall Classic. Buy tickets here.

Nobody has been better than Maryland over the last two seasons. The Terps have gone 33-1, including 18-0 season last year capped by a national title.

The challenge to reach a third straight championship game looks more significant after the top four scorers from a year ago graduated, along with the entire short-stick defensive midfield rotation. Falling in the 2021 national title game motivated the Terps coming into last season, and now, Maryland must avoid complacency after winning it all.

“This group has been working hard, and they’ve handled last year pretty well,” coach John Tillman said. “This year is this year, and we’re not really looking back.”

Maryland’s depth will be tested to rebuild a title contender — especially with the news that Eric Malever will miss the entire spring season — but the defensive end is largely intact in front of last year’s NCAA tournament Most Outstanding Player, goalie Logan McNaney, with staples Brett Makar and Ajax Zappitello back. That said, they must replace Matt Rahill. LSM John Geppert is another important piece back defensively.

“I’ve definitely seen the lows and seen some hard losses, but also seen the top,” Makar said. “We know what it takes, how much it does take, and the biggest thing is to get better every day, and that’s how you get there.”

The Terps also still have senior Luke Wierman, an oft-overlooked key to their success last year. The return of one of the very best in the country on faceoff means the Terps will be able to give their new-look attack plenty of chances as they retool around new offensive leaders like fifth-year Kyle Long.

Maryland also has to replace its SSDM’s Roman Puglise, Bubba Fairman, Jake Higgins and Alex Smith. Tillman has been impressed by Ryan Siracusa’s emergence in fall ball as one possibility, and there are plenty of other Terps hungry for a chance to contribute to another title run.

LAST SEASON

Maryland became the first team to win 18 games in an unbeaten season, and the Terps’ dominance established them among the best teams ever assembled. Their 9-7 win over Cornell for the national title was only their second game decided by fewer than four goals. They won by an average of 8.67 goals per game.

“Last year was unique in a lot of ways; it wasn’t anything we expected,” Tillman said. “The guys clicked, and they were so consistent. That’s very rare.”

Tewaaraton Award winner Logan Wisnauskas led an offense that put up the third-most goals, 318, in NCAA history. Wisnauskas broke the Maryland single-season points mark set by Jared Bernhardt the year before. The unselfish Terps also set the national record with 204 assists in a season.







BIGGEST FALL QUESTION

Who’s No. 1?

Maryland has seen a parade of Tewaaraton finalists wear No. 1 to build its legacy, and it has traditionally gone to a top offensive player, someone who just as importantly will represent the program in every aspect, even off the field. Bernhardt and Wisnauskas both wore No. 1 in their Tewaaraton winning seasons, so whoever follows has enormous shoes to fill.

“You have so many guys that could be great,” Tillman said. “You also don’t want it to be a distraction or a burden for somebody. So, I do think the right person is important.”

Tillman will offer the No. 1 to a player before the spring, he says, but his staff has been taking the fall to see who will wear it best. The No. 1 hunt is a microcosm for the offensive questions as Maryland looks to replace the four players who all scored at least 53 points, led by Wisnauskas.

“On the attack, we have to get some guys to feel comfortable,” Tillman said. “Logan was such a steady guy, and he was consistent. You just knew for five years what you were getting from Logan. It’s different.”

Maryland doesn’t have that level of dynamic player this year. The Terps do have balance and a wealth of potential with Long, Owen Murphy, Daniel Maltz, Jack Brennan, Jack Koras and Daniel Kelly all primed to step up.

MARQUEE ADDITION: WILL SCHALLER

The freshman defender gained his first college experience early at close defense in place of the graduated Rahill when Maryland took on Cornell in a fall ball game Sunday. The five-star defensive recruit out of The Hill School (Pa.) has the advantage of learning on the job from a deep core of All-American returners.

“Will has done a great job,” Tillman said. “He’s a really good athlete. He has a really bright future.”

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: ERIC SPANOS

Spanos redshirted last year in his first college season behind Maryland’s talented offensive group. He will have a chance to excel this season. Spanos brings a high IQ and unselfish attitude and has worked hard to improve since last season

“He was terrific last year in practice,” Tillman said. “A lot of times, he was the best guy on the other team and gave our main guys fits. He did a good job. I’m psyched for him.”

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