Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

Preview: Maryland men’s lacrosse takes on Cornell in NCAA championship

On Monday, Maryland men’s lacrosse will stand just 60 minutes away from a national championship.

The Terps have blazed through the regular and postseason with an unblemished record, decimating opponents along the way and setting records in the process. 

Cornell is the last on the list this season. If Maryland does to the Big Red what it has to pretty much everyone else, the Terps will become just the third undefeated champion since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2003, and the first to ever finish 18-0.

“Certainly, one of the goals was to win the last game, but it wasn’t like, if we don’t do that it’s a complete failure,” coach John Tillman said. “We’re big on the experience. This year has been a blessing, regardless of whether we got this far or not.”

Offensively, Tillman’s squad led the nation in goals per game, assists per game, points per game, scoring margin and shot percentage entering the final weekend. The Terps’ 18.17 goals per game is over two more than second-place Jacksonville. Maryland boasts 11 players with at least 10 goals this season, and has seven with at least 39 total points. 

Maryland’s offense hasn’t been the only catalyst throughout its spotless season. 

Defensively, Tillman’s squad ranks fourth in division one in both ground balls per game with 36.88 and scoring defense, allowing just over nine goals per contest. Luke Wierman has dominated on face-offs, ranking second nationally with a .661 winning percentage. In goal, Logan McNaney ranks fourth in the country with a .586 save percentage.

McNaney was the star against Princeton Saturday, collecting a career-high 19 saves — preventing the Tigers from ever putting together a run. While he protected Maryland’s goal, Logan Wisnauskas, Keegan Khan and the rest of the Maryland offense converted shots into goals en route to the 13-8 victory. 

Despite a season-high 19 turnovers and some general sloppy play, Maryland held control from pretty much start to finish, securing a second straight crack at a national championship.

“I just felt like there were times where we just didn’t play with poise and we didn’t play as smart as we could,” Tillman said. “It’s a semifinal game so you expect it to be tough. I mean, we won the game by five goals and we didn’t feel like we played great.”

Cornell comes into the title game with a 14-4 record, led by second year head coach Connor Buczek. After the Ivy League didn’t play in 2021, Buczek has led the Big Red to the championship game in his first season at the helm. 

The Big Red sport a dominant starting attack line, which accounts for 60 percent of their total points this season. John Piatelli leads the nation in goals with 65 goals in 18 games, while C.J. Kirst and Michael Long each have chipped in 76 and 65 points this season, respectively.

Beyond those three stars, offensive depth becomes a bit of a concern for the Big Red as just five other players have reached double-digit points this season.

In its semifinal win over Rutgers, Cornell dominated the Scarlet Knights for much of the game, leading 8-3 at halftime. Following a lengthy rain delay that began at halftime, the Big Red rattled off six straight goals in between Rutgers’ scores, grabbing control heading into the fourth before securing the victory. 

“[Against Rutgers it was] just a complete effort, started middle of the field, I thought [Cornell] faced off well and the ground ball play was really good early,” Tillman said. “Then they started executing really well on offense. They generated good looks, they capitalized on those looks. They rode incredibly well. Defensively, I thought they did a great job of playing team defense. They play with so much heart and passion, which is basically ‘Cornell lacrosse’.”

The Terps and the Big Red square off at 1:00 on Monday in East Hartford, Connecticut.