By Noah Johnson
For Unwind magazine
Monday, May, 30, 2016. Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Maryland men’s lacrosse team strides out into the warm, spring sun with a rare chance at redemption. One year prior, on that same field, the Terrapins fell to Denver 10-5 in the national championship game, one win shy of their first title since 1975.
After tumbling at the final hurdle in 2015, the 2016 national championship against North Carolina looked to be well within reach. Tied at 13 goals, the game went into overtime with Maryland just one win away from immortality.
That dream would once again be shattered, however, as Chris Cloutier’s fifth goal of the day found the back of the net to give the Tar Heels the title and hand the Terrapins their ninth consecutive national championship game defeat.
Not to be deterred, Maryland entered 2017 with aspirations to return to the national championship game. However, the season has not been a cakewalk for the Terrapins and head coach John Tillman said that the big goal for the team is to be more consistent.
“Their struggles with consistency have been a huge challenge,” said Johnny Moseman, the Maryland men’s lacrosse team’s beat reporter for The Left Bench. “John Tillman had been struggling to figure out a second midfield line that was most effective early in the season and that was a big problem since the team relied so heavily on their attack to score.”
Although Maryland won their first four games of 2017, their early season struggles were eventually punctuated by losses to No. 4 Notre Dame, whom they only managed four goals against, and unranked Villanova at home.
“They lost their second midfield from last year and had to reshuffle their defense, which definitely took time to adjust to,” said Daniel Bernstein, the Maryland men’s lacrosse team’s beat reporter for the Diamondback. “And the self-inflicted home loss to unranked Villanova took mental strength to overcome.”
While the loss to the Wildcats was unexpected, it seemed to light a fire under the team. It sparked a run that started with a 15-7 thrashing of No. 14 North Carolina in Chapel Hill, a victory made all the more sweet considering the heartbreaking defeat in the most recent national championship game.
Maryland sits at 10-3, an impressive mark considering every team in the Big Ten was ranked when conference play began on April 1. Senior Dylan Maltz said that the team needed to “find a sense of urgency” prior to the Big Ten opener against No. 19 Michigan, and the Terrapins responded with vigor.
While the victory over North Carolina was undoubtedly cathartic for a team who saw the national championship ripped away from them for the second straight year, Maryland’s most impressive victory of 2017 came on April 8 against No. 1 Penn State. The 15-11 win capped off a perfect senior day for the team’s graduating class.
“We’ve really enjoyed this group,” Tillman said, referencing the seniors. “I think the world of them.”
Maryland has enjoyed productive seasons from a host of players, including freshman Jared Bernhardt, who has taken collegiate lacrosse by storm. The midfielder has recorded at least one point in every game of his young career, an accomplishment that he attributes to his teammates.
Goalie Dan Morris has also been recognized for his quick adjustment to being the team’s starting goalie.
“Rambo, Heacock, Maltz, [Connor] Kelly and Bernhardt have all been exceptional on the attack,” Bernstein said. “Rotanz has come on strong recently. Defensively, Muller, Neufeldt and Davis-Allen anchor things.”
Of all the players on the Maryland roster, senior Matt Rambo carries one of the most notable storylines. With three games remaining in the regular season, along with the NCAA tournament, Rambo is just 16 goals shy of breaking Maryland’s career goal record.
In all likelihood, the attackman will get plenty of opportunities to claim that record. Coming off the 800th win in program history, a 12-11 triumph over No. 5 Albany, the Terrapins look primed for another run at the national championship.
Moseman said, “They are playing their best lacrosse of the season right now and there is no better time to do that then right now.”