For the Maryland men's lacrosse team, the quest to bounce back from its loss in the Final Four to Duke last May begins early.
The Terps open their season one week earlier than usual by hosting Bucknell at Maryland Stadium at 1 p.m. Feb. 2, which is forecast to be a chilly -- but clear -- day in College Park, Md. Maryland opens the season ranked No. 3 nationally by the
Inside Lacrosse media poll after a 14-4 season in 2018.
For Terps head coach John Tillman, an early start brings multiple benefits.
"I think the positives of going a week earlier are you avoid a mid-week game and in a certain way it forces maybe a greater sense of urgency when you come back [for preseason practices] to really make sure you get in everything you need to get in to play a game," Tillman said on
Glenn Clark Radio
Jan. 29. "So those were really the two big things. Let's see how we feel. We had seen other teams open up [early]. Obviously with the Cole facility, we thought we would be able to get in and get the work we needed to get in even if the weather was bad."
This year's squad will be led by junior Jared Bernhardt, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound attacker out of Longwood, Fla. The team's second-leading scorer last year behind departed midfielder Connor Kelly, Bernhardt scored 40 goals and dished out 16 assists as a sophomore. He scored 20 goals as a freshman for the national championship-winning squad in 2017.
Bernhardt and Kelly were Tillman's go-to scorers last year with the team losing Matt Rambo, Colin Heacock and Dylan Maltz to graduation following the national title. With Kelly gone, it's Bernhardt's team now.
"He did a really good job [last year] of kind of bridging the gap between losing all those attackmen and giving us a little more of a dynamic behind with Connor playing in front a lot," Tillman said. "And then I think this year, he's kind of taken one more step in terms of leadership, feeling more comfortable back there, knowing that really, he's the central point of the offense, just the most experienced guy.
"He's done a great job so far. Certainly a lot that he can work on, but dedicated guy. His speed and his quickness, it's hard to find a guy like that. But he's also a humble, hard-working team guy."
Maryland's top returning scorers other than Bernhardt are sophomore midfielders Logan Wisnauskas and Bubba Fairman. Each started 17 games as freshmen last year, with Wisnauskas scoring 47 points (33 goals, 14 assists) and Fairman scoring 34 points (25 goals, nine assists).
Wisnauskas, a Sykesville, Md., native and Boys' Latin graduate, originally attended Syracuse out of high school, but he redshirted in 2017, transferred to Maryland ahead of the 2017-18 school year and played right away as a redshirt freshman for the Terps last year.
"Logan was a real interesting guy because he came in last fall and I hadn't seen him play in a few years. So he comes in and he's sick in the fall, so he misses a big portion of our fall season. We didn't really know what we had," Tillman said. "And then we [practiced in] January and he was making some plays and getting more comfortable, earned a starting role and then once that happened, he totally took off and as the year went on got more and more comfortable."
The graduation of Dan Morris, the Terps' starting goalkeeper from 2017-2018, leaves Tillman with a question mark in net. Morris was 30-7 during his two years as the starting keeper, and his 410 career saves are seventh in Maryland history. He was named to the 2017 NCAA All-Tournament team and second-team All-Big Ten in 2018.
The four goalies Tillman will look to now are seniors Danny Dolan and Cameron Brosh and sophomores Colin Miller and Andrew Morris (no relation to Dan). Tillman said Dolan is "kind of the leader in the clubhouse, but he's also getting pushed by the three other guys." Dolan's last extensive action came as a sophomore at Massachusetts in 2016 when he started two games in net.
"It's been great. We've got four kids who have done a really good job since the fall. They're all trying to become the best they can be," Tillman said. "They're all competing against each other, but their relationships are really healthy. Sometimes when you're battling with a guy, it becomes cutthroat. We're all competitors and everyone kind of gets focused in on what they want, and … they all want to play, they're all going to come out and give it their best."
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox
To hear more from Tillman, listen to the full interview here: