Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics

For John Tillman and Jonathan Donville, Cornell isn’t just another opponent

When coach John Tillman was asked about Richie Moran Saturday night after his team’s win against Princeton, he cracked a soft smile before answering the question.

“Just crazy how coach [Moran] passes, and the two teams he was most aligned with, his alma mater and a place that he called home for so long, they’re playing for the national championship,” Tillman said. “I know he’s looking down proud. He impacted so many of us.”

No. 1 Maryland men’s lacrosse faces No. 7 Cornell in the national championship Sunday, but it might mean a little more to Tillman and midfielder Jonathan Donville.

The pair both have deep connections to the Ivy League school in Ithaca, New York. Tillman attended Cornell and played under legendary coach Moran, who died in April. Tillman was a member of Moran’s 1989 NCAA tournament squad, the last team to qualify for the postseason in his 29 years leading the Big Red.

Moran played midfield at Maryland in the late 1950’s before beginning his head coaching career. He led the Big Red to three NCAA championships during his tenure, in 1971, 1976 and 1977. In the first two championships, Moran’s teams beat Maryland to claim the title. 

Meanwhile, Donville joined the Terps after playing three seasons at Cornell, and was a captain during his junior year with the Big Red. Donville racked up 51 goals and 38 assists in his three years before entering the transfer portal in the fall of 2021.

When it came to recruitment, Donville picked Maryland — not the other way around. He had intentions of pursuing a Master’s degree in journalism, while also joining one of the nation’s top lacrosse programs.

“He had already done his research,” Tillman said. “Maryland, this program in journalism that we have is exactly what he wanted. Everybody we talked to raved about him, so there was no risk in my opinion.”

While the pair both have extensive connections to Cornell, they have also built their resumes with the Terps. 

Tillman has collected 159 career wins at Maryland, the second most in the history of the program. A win against the Big Red would secure the Terps’ second title under his leadership. 

Donville has integrated seamlessly into one of the best offenses in the history of college lacrosse. His 30 goals rank fourth on the team and he’s tied for third in assists with 22, good for 52 total points. 

Regardless of the duo’s ties, when the first whistle is blown, they’ll both share a common goal: defeating their opponent and becoming champions. 

“For Donville and I, probably the team we didn’t want to play, because we love the place so much and it means a lot to us,” Tillman said. “But we realized that’s just part of it. We’ve got to kind of just block that out and focus on prepping the rest of the team. We owe them that, so that’s what we’ll do.”