It was hard to tell Saturday that Maryland’s lacrosse season was cut short last season because of the coronavirus.
Against Michigan, the No. 5 Terps offense barely showed any rust while trouncing the visiting Wolverines, 20-9, at Maryland Stadium. Few coaches knew what to expect in the season opener after last year’s shortened version, but the Terps were as impressive on offense as they have been the past couple of seasons.
Seniors Logan Wisnauskas (three goals) and Jared Bernhardt (two) paced the attack while senior Bubba Fairman played well in the midfield. Only this year, Fairman has more help with two graduate students who transferred to Maryland in the offseason in middies Eric Holden, from Hobart, and Griffin Brown, from Colgate.
Led by five goals from sophomore attackman Daniel Maltz, the Terps remained unbeaten against Michigan in their seven-game series.
“These kids have been through a lot in the last 11 months or so,” said Maryland coach John Tillman, whose team led, 10-2, at the half. “I was happy to see them at it, competing for Maryland. It was awesome, and I was proud of the way we played, especially in the first 45 minutes. I thought our guys were scrappy and flew around, especially when you consider there were no scrimmages and limited other opportunities.”
Wisnauskas (Boys’ Latin) and Bernhardt continue to form one of the top tandems in the country. They are coming off a season where they scored 44 goals and combined for 21 assists in six games and combined for slightly more than 10 points per game.
In 2019, they were credited with seven game-winning goals.
The tandem makes Maryland’s offense hard to defend. Both can operate from behind goal on isolation plays. They are slick enough to play the two-man game from behind the cage or on both sides of it. Then when you add players like Fairman, Holden, Brown and midfielder Anthony DeMaio and Maltz, the Terps can spin the ball easily to find the open player or go inside for easy looks.
The Terps also got a bonus in January when they added longtime Johns Hopkins assistant and offensive coordinator Bobby Benson to their staff in January. Maryland will play a 10-game schedule in 2021, all against Big Ten Conference teams. Benson knows those teams well but should be able to give Maryland insight on Terps weaknesses he discovered coaching against them in one of the most heated rivals in college lacrosse.
“Given the nature of where we are, we just felt like having another coach and another resource for our players — whether it was for the strategic part and also the connectivity of a coach and a player and just having someone that can look out for these guys — was really important,” Tillman said. “One, he’s been in the league. Right now, our schedule is league centric. So, he’s been in the league since the inception of the league and has a lot of familiarity not only with our team, but the other teams we’re going to play.
“It’s been great so far,” said Tillman. “I think Coach Benson has come in and he’s just been able to find that sweet spot of bringing fresh ideas but listening to our players and trying to find what they’re comfortable with and not trying to rock the boat, and I think our guys have really gravitated toward him.”
It was clear from the game’s outset that Michigan (0-1) wanted to run a deliberate offense to slow down Maryland. The Wolverines were careful with their shot selection in the first five minutes, but their frustration became easily visible once Maryland started to score, especially after the Terps took a 5-1 lead at the end of the first period.
The two teams exchanged a goal in the first eight minutes, but Maryland dominated from then on. Long scored with 4:48 left in the period and Maltz made it 3-1 with 3:08 remaining. Wisnauskas scored the final two goals of the quarter and the rout was on.
“I think he came in and we kept some of our offensive sets, but he has helped us a lot, especially with our off-ball movement,” said Maltz of Benson. “I just try to play off Jared and Logan and they can make the easy passes inside.”
NO. 5 MARYLAND@NO. 6 PENN STATE
Friday, 5:30 p.m.