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Maryland: National Champions! A Lacrosse Primer

How bad has the Big Ten been in lacrosse, and how has Maryland thrived in the conference?

NCAA Lacrosse: Men’s Lacrosse Championship Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry I’m late to Maryland Week at OTE. I’m still basking in the glow of a national championship, which was merely the cherry on top of a historically great season. Inside Lacrosse just named this year’s team the 5th best lacrosse team of all time and the best team of the 2000’s.

Maryland’s perverse obsession with lacrosse is inexplicable to outsiders, kinda like Wisconites’ obsession with cheese curds.

Fun Facts about Maryland and Lacrosse:

Maryland has four national championships in lacrosse in the last five years (I’m ignoring 2020 cuz COVID).

  • 2017 - Men’s and Women’s lacrosse
  • 2019 - Women’s lacrosse
  • 2022 - Men’s lacrosse.

Including the 2018 men’s soccer national championship, Maryland is averaging 1 national championship per year. Six B1G teams have not had a single national championship in any sport over the same time period. You know who you are. But, I will call you out anyway because I’m a spiteful jerk (also known as a typical Maryland fan): Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Purdue, Rutgers.

The Tewaaraton Award is the lacrosse equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Maryland men’s lacrosse has produced three Tewaaraton Award winners over the last five years (again, ignoring 2020 cuz COVID)

  • Matt Rambo - 2017
  • Jared Bernhardt - 2021, and
  • Logan Wisnaukus - 2022.

Bernhardt took his extra year of COVID eligibility and promptly led Ferris State to the D-II National Championship in football and has signed on to play with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL.

On the women’s side, Maryland palyers have won the Tewaaraton Award twice of the last five years:

  • Zoe Stukenberg - 2017 and
  • Megan Taylor - 2019.

It also bears mentioning the MD won all five Tewaaraton Awards from 2012-2016.

Around the B1G

As part of Maryland’s inclusion in the B1G starting in 2014, Johns Hopkins joined the B1G in lacrosse only. JHU added the requisite 6th team to the conference, which allowed the B1G to have an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Maryland-Johns Hopkins lacrosse is a serious rivalry. They have played 124 times since 1895. JHU leads the series 67-48-1, but MD has won the last five times. The annual regular season matchup typically draws 10-15K, which is more than a typical Duke-Northwestern football game.

JHU is a blue-blood program, which was supposed to bring prestige and credibility to B1G lacrosse. Unfortunately, they have done their best FSU and The “U” imitations. Both were supposed to bring credibility and prestige to ACC football. Look how that turned out.

Here’s the full roundup of the Big Ten in men’s lacrosse:

  • Maryland is the best program in men’s lacrosse. They have lost exactly 1 game over the last two years. The 2021 national championship game in which they lost by 1 goal to UVA. Since John Tillman was hired, MD has been to 9 of the last 11 Men’s lacrosse Final Fours.
  • Ohio State, Rutgers, and Penn State have been solid, each going to a Final Four over the last 5 years.
  • Johns Hopkins has been respectable, but so much more was expected.
  • Michigan has just been going through the motions. I suspect Delaney told UM to get a team together because they, of all the B1G schools, had the most money to fund a team (look at all that money they keep throwing at Harbs). But, they really don’t care about lacrosse and are mailing it in each spring.

So why are we so lacrosse-obsessed?

Jousting was named the official state sport for MD in 1962. Realizing how dumb this was, MD named lacrosse, the official state team sport in 2004. Gotta provide a link for something this wacky.

My daughter went to public high school in Howard County, Maryland. She never started a single lacrosse game in high school. (She would have started her senior year, but the season was canceled cuz COVID). She just received all-conference honors as a sophomore playing D3 lacrosse in college. That’s how talent-rich the lacrosse scene is in Maryland. Can’t crack the 1st team until her senior year in public high school, but is all-conference in college as a sophomore. Ridiculous and inexplicable.

Here are the rankings for girls high school lacrosse: 5 of the top 15 and 3 of the top 5 schools are MD schools.

Here are the rankings for boys high school lacrosse: 4 of the top 10 and 8 of the top 25 schools are Maryland schools.

Lacrosse has its roots in richy-rich elite preps schools in the Northeast. Given its roots, lacrosse still tends to be not a very racially diverse sport. However, that is changing quickly. Its popularity is growing rapidly along the east coast, west coast and across Florida and partly in Texas. The midwest, not so much, particularly the upper midwest, where hockey still rules.

Intro to Lacrosse

For those interested, below is a 32-minute highlight of Maryland’s victory in this year’s quarterfinal game of the NCAA tournament against Virginia.

It shows a lot of slo-mo replays that explain the plays and serves as a nice way to appreciate lacrosse played at a high level. And how good Maryland was in dominating a very good UVA team.

Notes: possession is awarded to whichever team has a player closest to the ball when it goes out of bound during an errant shot on goal.

Defenders are equipped with long sticks or short sticks. Attack players are offense only, Defenders are defense only, and mid-fielders play offense and defense. A team’s biggest defensive weakness is usually their short-stick defensive mid-fielders [SSDMs]. Most teams will slide, meaning provide defensive help with their SSDMs, which is when offenses attack. MD caught UVA several times in mismatches when substituting offensive and defensive players. The announcers do a good job of noting when this happened.