Adversaries to Admirers: What Coaches Are Saying About Historic Maryland Team

PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

Keegan Khan, a graduate transfer from Villanova, has 32 goals and 26 assists this year.


Jon Torpey could only laugh. The coach of a team whose season ended nearly three weeks ago found himself answering questions about an opponent he faced more than three months ago.

Everyone wants to know what it’s like to have had the misfortune of facing Maryland.

“There is no weakness, man,” said Torpey, whose High Point team was the first of 16 foes the Terps have cast aside all too easily in their undefeated run to the final four. Maryland defeated the Panthers 21-13 on Feb. 5. “We scored more goals on them than anybody else the entire season. We thought we played pretty damn well. Somehow without Jared Bernhardt — without the alpha male X guy — they got better. Just remarkable to watch, honestly.”

The Terps have made admirers out of many adversaries this season, inspiring comparisons to some of the greatest teams of all time. They steamrolled two-time defending national champion Virginia twice, most recently defeating the Cavaliers 18-9 in the NCAA quarterfinals Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.

It felt more like a coronation than a steppingstone. There’s still Princeton and then either Rutgers or Cornell standing between Maryland and its place in history. But that hasn’t stopped anyone from waxing historic when they talk about these Terps.

“The ride’s over,” Cavaliers coach Lars Tiffany said afterward. “We’ve been fortunate the last two full seasons — in ’19 and ’21 — to finish our seasons holding up the national championship trophy, so it’s hard not to have the final four be a part of the Virginia lacrosse season. But there’s a reason it’s ended, and it’s because we just faced, in my opinion, the best team in the last 16 years.”

Tiffany invoked the 1990 Syracuse and 2006 Virginia teams, adding 2022 Maryland to the list of seemingly invincible squads.

Albany coach Scott Marr added 1997 Princeton — a team that throttled Maryland 19-7 in the NCAA championship game when Marr was an assistant on the Terps’ staff — and 2005 Johns Hopkins to the mix in an interview Tuesday.

The Great Danes played at Maryland on March 12, a week after the Terps eked past Notre Dame 11-9 in their only game decided by fewer than four goals and a week before Maryland obliterated Virginia 23-12 in D.C.

Facing Albany, Maryland scored 11 goals — in the first quarter. It was one of three different times this season that the Terps rang up double-digit goals in a single frame. The Terps won 24-6.

“Barring a catastrophe, I really do see them winning the national championship,” Marr said. “They just dismantle teams.”







By now the fawning over Maryland has become as predictable as its presumed place on Memorial Day. Opposing coaches venerate the breathtaking ball movement and unselfishness of an offense that outclasses everyone in efficiency (41.2 percent, according to Lacrosse Reference) and assist rate (63.2 percent). They gush about the depth and discipline of Maryland’s defense and its immovable cadre of short sticks. They marvel at just how few mistakes the Terps make on either end of the field, with a turnover rate of just 27.3 percent.

And then there’s Luke Wierman, whose last-second attempt Alex Rode turned aside in last year’s NCAA championship game. Faceoffs were supposed to be Maryland’s vulnerability. Motivated by the memory of how 2021 ended, however, Wierman has gone from being a middle-of-the-pack specialist (45.3 percent) to an All-American (66.5 percent), tilting the field in such a fashion that some have argued he’s more valuable to the Terps than Tewaaraton Award finalist and all-time leading scorer Logan Wisnauskas.

Color Torpey unsurprised.

“Look at what they did in ’17. They had to beat the four best faceoff guys in the country to get to the national championship game and win the thing,” Torpey said, recalling how Jon Garino caught fire to get the better of Albany’s TD Ierlan, Denver’s Trevor Baptiste and Ohio State’s Jake Withers — all three of whom now play professionally — when Maryland ended a 42-year title drought in 2017. “They’ve got some sort of magic there.”

Maryland has only added to its mystique with exotic substitution schemes yielding yet more scoring opportunities.

“Your defense just can’t withstand that type of pounding from them,” one Big Ten coach said this week. “Even if you can hang around for three quarters, it’s a matter of time for that dam to break.”

There is, of course, no shortage of individual talent. Twelve Terps earned Inside Lacrosse All-American honors. Six were picked in the Premier Lacrosse League draft. Marr mused that Maryland might have the nation’s top player at every position — not just in Wierman and Wisnauskas, but also in Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Brett Makar and Cornell transfer Jonathan Donville, whom the Big Ten coach called “the best off-ball midfielder in the country.”

Princeton sure has its hands full. Then again, the Tigers were the only team to foil Georgetown before the Hoyas tripped up against Delaware in the first round. Maryland defeated Princeton 15-10 on Feb. 26. They’ll meet in the second NCAA semifinal Saturday (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.

Asked how he might scheme Maryland, Torpey suggested guerilla tactics like striking early on offense, pressing out on ball handlers to disrupt the Terps’ rhythm and stealing back a few possessions in the ride or on the end line. He said this with a tone of resignation.

Thirteen different teams have tried to figure out Maryland and failed. Johns Hopkins, Rutgers and Virginia came up empty twice.

“It was almost like we were running around a thousand miles an hour and they were going 10,” Marr said. “It was just slow motion for them.”

A speed that would suit the Terps just fine for a victory lap around Rentschler Field on Memorial Day — one that would end with a place in the pantheon of college lacrosse’s all-time greatest teams.

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