Maryland Men’s Lacrosse HC John Tillman: ‘Tears Of Joy … Awesome To See’ After Last Year

Maryland men’s lacrosse secured its fourth NCAA championship with a 9-7 win against Cornell on Monday, May 30, marking the first undefeated championship men’s lacrosse season since Virginia’s undefeated campaign in 2006.

Maryland fans remember the last 10.8 seconds of the Maryland-Virginia national title game that took place a year ago. Luke Wierman stepped up for the faceoff, won it but couldn’t convert on a shot in the closing seconds. Shock hung over the Terps while the Cavaliers stormed the field with a 17-16 victory.

Maryland head coach and two-time national champion John Tillman looked to the core values of the team, pushing his players to be the best they could be.

“That’s why we do what we do,” Tillman said on Glenn Clark Radio May 31. “Teaching guys about resiliency, teaching guys about life, realizing things don’t always go your way. It’s how you respond.”

Coming off the loss to Virginia, Wierman worked hard and dedicated himself to the 2022 season. Every player who was part of that game dedicated themselves to the game in order to win and redeem themselves, particularly the graduate students who opted to return.

“They took the chance, they made some sacrifices, they put their lives on hold. So, to see those guys celebrating after seeing the tears of pain last year, to see the tears of joy, it’s so awesome to see,” Tillman said. “… To me it’s just seeing those guys go, ‘You know what? Let’s try it again. We’re going to risk breaking our hearts,’ but life is all about taking those risks so that your life is better.”

Tillman compared Wierman to Connor Kelly, who posted 128 goals and 63 assists from 2015-2018 and won the national title in 2017 after falling just short in 2016. Wierman dominated the faceoff X throughout the 2022 season, especially during the last two games (26-for-42).

“I kind of look at what happened in ’16. We lose in the national championship. A lot of people talked about Connor Kelly how he had a shot in overtime and it didn’t finish. And we had a lot of shots on that game, but people always talk about the last one,” Tillman said. “Connor was left with that all summer. Connor took that and utilized that, and it motivated him to have an incredible year. … Through that adversity he got stronger and better.”

Tillman explained that fifth-year midfielder Bubba Fairman was another prime example of a valuable player on and off the field. Fairman suffered a few injuries when he was a freshman and never truly got back his full physical potential. Fairman played selflessly for his team, moving to defensive midfielder for his final season as a Terp.

“[Fairman] never pouted, never complained. But deep down inside, I think he’s got high standards and he obviously wanted to do his best for the team,” Tillman said. “… There’s what he does on the field, but when it goes off the field — the type of teammate he is, the type of leader, what he does for our young guys, is immeasurable. … I thought he played his best two games of the year when we needed it most, which to me is the sign of a great player.”

The defense was on high alert May 30, with junior goalie Logan McNaney front and center. McNaney, the 2022 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, made 17 saves and finished with 61 saves in the tournament. The Big Red was held scoreless in the second and third quarters.

Tillman said the players did a tremendous job of executing the game plan.

“A lot of it was straight-up fundamentals, discipline, being on the same page, forcing guys where they needed to go, communicating well and being on point,” Tillman said. “I think [McNaney would] be the first to tell you there were guys getting the hands, guys were moving, they weren’t setting their feet. And that just took a little bit off, which makes Logan’s job a whole lot easier.”

For more from Tillman, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics