'Leap of Faith' on Logan McNaney Pays off for Maryland


COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Logan McNaney was completely on board with the idea of redshirting. He knew he wasn’t as productive as he could have been in the fall. And as a longtime Maryland lacrosse fan, the freshman goalie knew redshirting was something of a tradition at the position in the Terrapins’ program.

Then the plan changed.

It was McNaney who drew the start coming out of a 10-day hiatus last week, and he made 10 saves in the Terrapins’ 14-9 defeat of Notre Dame. For the first time in his 10 seasons at Maryland, coach John Tillman had made an in-season goalie switch after sophomore Chris Brandau started the first four games.

“Just felt like it was time to give Logan a chance,” Tillman said. “We kind of took a leap of faith with him. We had two scrimmages and four games, and he had not played in anything this spring. We just went with what we had seen in practice. Logan is a guy who doesn’t seem to get fazed by much. He’s got a very even-keel approach. Seems to be up to the challenge, regardless of what it was. He just went with it.”

It wasn’t a completely out-of-nowhere decision; McNaney was getting some work with the first team during some practices in February. And it couldn’t come as a huge shock the lauded recruit would have the chops to work his way into the lineup eventually.

Even at Maryland, where the likes of Niko Amato, Kyle Bernlohr and Dan Morris all redshirted in the 2010s. Even at Maryland, where Brandau (who played in last year’s NCAA tournament at Georgetown) and Drew Morris (the Terps’ backup in 2019) were part of the competition.

“I knew there were three great guys who had experience being in college before, and then you hear about this little squirt coming in from wherever in New York and he’s the MVP of the Under Armour game and he’s obviously very good, and it was easy to see as soon as he stepped on the field and started playing,” defensive midfielder Roman Puglise said.

The “little squirt” is listed at 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, but his background is exceptional. He posted a 3.8 goals-against average for the Salisbury School last year and impressed his new Maryland teammates with his on-field unflappability.

His smaller frame has some advantages. He’s developed a distinct style of his own while learning the position, and there’s a bit of a mental edge of knowing how opponents might view him when he steps between the pipes.

“When you look at me in the net, I’m not that big,” McNaney said. “I don’t take up as much of the net. But I think my quick hands and reflexes and knowing the tendency of the shooters allowed me to save the ball. When they see a short goalie, they expect to shoot high. I just sit on that and see what happens.”

Generally, good things have happened. McNaney grew up in Corning, N.Y., the same hometown as Tillman, and was an attackman when he first picked up the sport. But he switched to goalie around 10 and quickly learned of Maryland’s superb lineage at the position, thus becoming a fan of the program. It probably didn’t hurt that the Terps were regulars on Memorial Day for much of the last decade.

He made it a point to take extra shots after practice in the fall from Maryland attackmen Jared Bernhardt and Logan Wisnauskas, who got a sense of their new teammate’s ability well before his debut.

The Terps also realized how well the newcomer could compartmentalize a miscue and quickly move on, a trait that’s already come in handy after Notre Dame hung around for more than a half before Maryland pulled away last week.

“He’s not talking about the goal — he’s cracking jokes,” Puglise said of the freshman’s reaction to allowing a score. “That’s Logan. It’s just him being him. I think that’s the biggest thing. He’s not getting upset when a goal is scored on him. Obviously, he doesn’t want that to happen, but he isn’t letting that define his day or define who he is as a goalie. He knows his ability and he knows his traits.”

Two of them stand out. One is an ability to make stops, a skill every goalie clearly requires but can vary in degree between guys who simply make manageable saves and those who can steal a couple extra each game.

Then there’s a serene approach, which seems to come naturally to McNaney.

“I use that every day, not just in lacrosse,” he said. “I use it in school. If I get a bad grade, I just say, ‘Whatever, move on to the next one, get the better grade the next time.’ Playing lacrosse, I’ve always tried to stay calm and mellow when a goal goes in. Once you get mad …”

He hasn’t had much to be angry about at any of his stops. He’s now the first freshman goalie to start for Maryland since Amato in 2011, and the first true freshman to do so since Brian Phipps in 2007.

Pretty heady company for a player who is well aware of the accomplishments of his predecessors.

“Nothing’s changed for him,” Puglise said. “He doesn’t look at himself as better than anyone or bigger than anyone. He’s just doing his thing. I think that’s cool to see, especially from a young guy. Their head doesn’t get too big, and as a freshman starting at Maryland with the long line and pedigree of goalies, I think it means something really special to him.”

Tillman emphasized the goalie switch was made not because of what Brandau (.519 save percentage) wasn’t doing, but rather because of what McNaney was doing on a day-to-day basis. While the competition is ongoing in College Park, one of the Terps’ smallest players has a chance to secure a long-term role if he continues to stand tall in the cage.

“He does his job stopping the ball and passing the ball on the clears,” Bernhardt said. “Whether he’s 2-3, 7-4, purple, green, he’s able to do his job.”

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