Everything John Tillman, players said after Final Four win vs. Virginia

Maryland was able to get revenge over its regular season opponent after defeating Virginia, 12-6, to punch their 17th all-time ticket to the NCAA title game with top-seed Notre Dame next. While head coach John Tillman and the Terps will now get a chance to avenge a second regular season loss in their championship run, Tillman, Luke Wierman and Colin Sharkey recap what went right in Saturday’s win vs. the ‘Hoos.

John Tillman’s opening statement

“Proud of our group. I thought they had a great week of preparation, the players, everybody, whether they played today or not, just got great efforts and the coaches. Jesse’s defensive game plan was great. These guys executed it extremely well. And offensively, just to get off to such a good start, I felt like Luke did a tremendous job with his possessions, then we were able to capitalize on some of those, whereas a week ago we had possessions and we had so many turnovers. I thought we were better. We weren’t great, but we were better. So a credit to them. Obviously hats off to Lars and his staff. They do an awesome job. Super talented. Obviously one of the great programs in the country. Honor to play them. Obviously just delighted to have a chance on Memorial Day to take this thing to the end.”

Luke Wierman on the vibes after winning the first five faceoffs

Wierman: “I thought the game plan was very well executed in the beginning. I thought we had a good game plan and we just kind of stuck to that. I think the offense scoring, like Coach said, and capitalizing on those opportunities definitely helps that. Gives confidence to the whole team, confidence in myself and our wings and the chemistry we had kind of building. We just stuck to that game plan. Have been working on it all week.”

Colin Sharkey on the midfield adjustments vs. Virginia

A lot of what we were focusing on was get them 6-on-6. They’re a team that excels in uneven or 5-on-5 situations, and that’s what they look for. A lot was it Coach Tillman implementing a new ride that helped us get them to 6-on-6 and that kind of stuff. I think as soon as we were able to do that stuff, we were immediately able to find more success, get stops.”

Wierman on his confidence heading to his third national championship game under Tillman

“Obviously a lot of confidence, for sure. Been here for a long time. We just trust him so much. He trusts us. And I think that’s a big part of it all. He always says he’s been doing it a long time, likes to make jokes about it. Obviously he has, and he’s had a lot of success, and we just stick to his game plan, we’re confident in that, and makes ourselves confident.”

Sharkey on the performance from Ajax Zappitello

“Ajax is incredible. We have the utmost confidence in him to win his matchup and do his job which allows us to kind of do our own thing and not worry about that as much, and being able to take a player like Connor Shellenberger and put him on an island with Ajax. Shellenberger is going to get his every now and then, but we trust Ajax to continue to do that, and it allows our defense to succeed and puts us in a great spot. It’s amazing.”

Wierman on the defensive adjustments in rematch vs. Virginia

“I think that’s a question for somebody else up here. The game plan is to stick to his game plan. That’s the game plan for us.”

Tillman: “And then go to Chipotle or Maggiano’s”

Wierman: “Yeah. But they’re a hot team. They have a lot of great players, All-Americans scattered throughout the roster. The question from earlier, we trust each other, focusing on sticking together as a team no matter what happens. That trust goes a long way.”

Sharkey on how Maryland held Virginia to just 17 shots on net

“Goes back to this week in practice. Our scout guys gave us a fantastic look, all of their guys, their looks. We were able to go in with kind of a sense of we’ve already seen it. So it wasn’t like going out there the first time we’ve seen a look, which is huge for us and allows us to be successful. Along with that, as I said earlier, we have guys like Ajax we trust. We trust everyone. Everyone did their job today. We don’t ask anyone to do too much. That’s what helps us win.”

Sharkey on the reaction after Shellenberger’s opening goal

“Like I said, we have so much faith in Ajax he’s proven what he can do over the past four years. But at the same time, Shellenberger, he’s an incredible player. He will get assists and score goals. That doesn’t change our game plan. Jesse put in a game plan so we’re going to stick with that no matter what happens. If he gets one or two, great, let him get three, four, before we change it up. Ton of faith in him. He’s the leader of defense. He’s been doing it all year. Nothing’s going to change that.”

Wierman on the conversation at halftime

“Just what we were saying was kind of look back at some of the games we had this season, especially a couple weeks ago against Princeton. We didn’t start that second half very well. We were just reiterating that to the guys in the locker room and on the field, just saying we can’t start slow especially against a team like this, with the firepower they have. So just focusing on pedal to the metal stick together and to the game plan, like we’re going to start getting tired. It was hot out there today, and especially this time of year teams are run down. And just playing through that tiredness, making a smart play, that was our focus.”

Wierman on what changed after losses vs. Johns Hopkins, Penn State

“I wouldn’t say it was one thing that changed or one message that changed this team. We just knew that we needed to keep working. It was not just going to happen overnight. That was really the message that we focused on, was it’s not going to happen overnight. New guys in new spots. We lost a lot of guys over the last couple of years. We just needed to keep chipping away at things, chipping away, really sticking together. Early in the season against Penn State we were down big there at their place. We stuck together and came back and found that identity. And coaches have been putting us in great spots. That’s really what it is. Our scout team during the week, I mean, what they come out and do every week and what they execute, that’s a massive part of it.”

Tillman on the run leading up to halftime

“I just think anytime you get — everybody loves Colin, and when you get a goal from somebody that’s a little unlikely, it does go a long way. Especially defensive-type guy. So that was definitely a lift because to get that and then go into the half, right, you’re up four now. And just, again, in a game like that, just changes your mindset just a tad. You know at halftime we just went back in said they’re going to dial up the pressure. We might see Nunes. We tried to figure out who was going to play. The way they rode last week was very different than what they had done all year. So we weren’t sure whether that was specific to Hopkins or that was based on the goalie. So we can live scout, so I went up on Sunday. And biggest thing I tried to do, I sat way up. No one wanted to sit by me anyway. But just sitting up, trying to figure out what is going on in the back end. A lot of times on the films you get to scout, you only get half the field. And they played more quarters back there where a lot of the other games they were playing man-to-man, and I couldn’t tell if that was because Nunes wasn’t in or something they did to Hopkins. Because they rode incredibly well, but if you look at the other games, it was different, from what I could see. Again, you can’t see everything in the back. We had to have a number of plans based on which goalie, because we thought the rides would change, so we had a number of things. And the kids did a really good job of it. We dialed back on a lot of the banging this week, the 1-on-1s and the 4-on-4s and 5-on-5s, but did more full field. We didn’t do a good job against the ten man last time. We didn’t do a good job getting back, the subbing, things like that. So most of the week it’s really the unscripted lacrosse. And I thought we did a great job. The guys followed the plan. We really tried to platoon guys and not get offensive guys caught, and they crushed us on that. They crushed a lot of teams. And when they get to 5 v. 5 or 4 v. 4, they do such a good job. We butchered one. The ball went out. We ran two guys off. We gave them a quick 6-on-4, and Chizmar got it, credit to them. But for the most part I thought our guys got back. It was just about get to 6-on-6, get to 6-on-6. And still you have to defend a great group. Obviously Kevin does a great job with the offense, and they’re still going to put six great players out there. When they reduce it and they have more space and they kind of — you have offensive guys or faceoff guys caught, it does make it hard. They do such a good job.”

Tillman on the message to keep it 6-on-6 vs. Virginia

“Big time. Some of the goals they got last time, again, give them credit. It’s what they do. We had like Luke caught on defense one time and the ball, like, we had a slide, and then the ball gets thrown inside. And their faceoff guy picks it up and scores. Luke’s not really in that spot a lot. And one time I think Erksa was in there, we slid and they got another one. We failed a couple of clears last time. We just didn’t set up right. And part of that was a byproduct of they were playing the 5 v. 5, and then we got a stop and then we just didn’t line up right. So then we fail to clear, and then they come back, and now they kind of grind you down. Not only are they going to get a second chance, but maybe unsettled. They did such a good job. Give them a lot of credit. Obviously their attack rides, 39 is awesome. He’s so disruptive. They’re just different. So you have to — I think the second time certainly helped us, just the kids had a reference point. So it wasn’t like we were doing it from scratch.”

Tillman on what makes the 2024 championship run different

“I’ll go back to, each team is different. Each team is special. To me, especially having done this for a while, to me it’s all about the journey. It really is. You start in August, and you have this brand-new journey that you go on. And then there’s so many things that happen on a daily basis that some are lacrosse oriented, some are not. And you get these wide-eyed freshmen, and by the end of the year you see a lot of growth and maturity on and off the field, and you go through a lot of ups and downs. We play a great schedule. We play so many good teams, and we certainly — we’ve had some bad moments, and I’ll own that, and obviously that’s my responsibility. At times we’ve not played well. But we’ve owned it. We’ve always tried to go back and try to improve. We try to stick together, and I think that’s the thing that I think is most rewarding is like these guys didn’t point the finger. Everybody stuck together. Everybody kept believing. And to me that’s what they need to know going forward in their lives. They’re going to deal with bigger challenges, more adversity, and like these experiences hopefully get them ready because they’re going to be dads and they’re going to be husbands and have to figure stuff out. And when things don’t go well, you have no choice, you have to figure out what can we do, what can we control and how do we make the most of this situation. So those are things that I really appreciate from being an educator is it does mirror life, and again these guys have handled it well. And, again, we’ve just kind of stuck together. And some of those moments were bad.”

Tillman on what sticks out about Notre Dame

“I don’t have enough time to throw all of the compliments I could because they’re so good everywhere. Everything is good. Like they have the best goalie in the country arguably. He’s finalist for the Tewaaraton. They have a great faceoff guy. Their defense is tremendous. Short sticks are great, push the ball in transition. They play three midfields, and their third midfield scored today. They scored a lot in the ACC Tournament. Rarely can you see a third midfield, and they are really, really productive. And the first two are tremendous. And the Kavanaghs, the way they play, so much passion and energy. They’re competitive. They’re unselfish. And, again, they’re well-coached. Coach Corrigan has been doing it a long time. He is awesome and his staff is great. They have like just a staff that complements each other, and they have a lot of experience. They don’t beat themselves. We’ll have to put a lot of time in over the next two days to try to get ready. We’ll try to put together a plan. But we know how good they are. They’ve been the best team all year. Obviously they were the best team last year. So we’ve just got to kind of look at ourselves and look at them and figure out what can we do to put ourselves in the best position to win. Recover, hydrate, and start our prep, and just make sure we’re doing everything we can to put the team into position to win. But I want these kids to enjoy the moments we have because we only have two days left, and on Tuesday and Wednesday guys are going to start leaving. So they needed to appreciate the moment. Still be hungry, but also realize, like, it’s all going to be done soon. So make the most of this time together.”

Tillman on the emphasis to play mistake-free since the Princeton game

“We’ve been decent this year. We had a few early. We had a couple lacrosse checks where I think against Syracuse we had two two-minute penalties. We do practice some of those things just to avoid leading with your hands and crosschecking. Jesse Bernhardt does an awesome job with our defense. In terms of the fundamentals — if you ever watch Jesse play now, he’s not a big checker. He neutralizes guys. It’s about staying in front of your guy, checking when you need to, but not beating yourself. So there’s a big emphasis on, listen, let’s play clean, let’s not beat ourselves, let’s not be reckless, and be detail oriented. So Jesse deserves a lot of credit. But also our offensive guys. The last time we played them, they got two man-up goals, one offensive guy got a push and they scored. And then Luke got one, and they scored. It’s everybody. But even in that game, you can’t, like, non-defensive guys shouldn’t be getting penalties. And the guys have just been more disciplined with it. I think the guys also realized, when we haven’t played well, we’ve not been clean, and we’ve been undisciplined. So let’s just stay disciplined, do the right things, don’t go for that home run check. And hopefully, if we could give Logan a shot, maybe good things can happen.”

Tillman on the celebration following the win, impact for the program

“I love those guys. To me the relationships are everything. You guys get them for four years, but you’re preparing them for 40. But, man, these guys just being with them keeps me young. Sometimes it makes me feel a little old, depending on how bad we play or maybe a bad practice or something like that. But I’m fortunate to coach at a place like Maryland, and I don’t take that for granted. Obviously there’s a great responsibility. So I do my very best to just kind of give everything I can every day, and obviously that’s really important to me. But I also have great assistants, great support staff. Shawn is here. It’s really important at Maryland. So we get a lot of support. We get support from our alums. And it means a lot to our state. So that’s not lost on me. So, again, we have so many good people that are pulling all in the right direction that gives you a chance. But those guys, man, they’re awesome. To see Matty Rambo and all those guys here, to see them being successful and doing great things, making an impact on their communities and just having success, it’s awesome. It’s why you get into coaching and teaching.”

Tillman on the impact on Wierman winning first five faceoffs

“Like getting that first faceoff win, it’s like, okay, good. When we didn’t maybe get off to the greatest start at first. But with Luke, like knowing that, all right, this feels good, gives you a lot of confidence, and he seemed to be locked in and ready to go. So offensively, I think it gives definitely some confidence, Luke is awesome. And I think the last game, they did a great job of tying him up and at times, just not letting him get out, being physical, the wings getting involved. And I don’t think, if you ask Luke, he definitely didn’t have his best game. So I do think he was focused. I think last time he lost his poise a little bit. He got frustrated. That led to the penalty. And partly because he wants to help the team and he knows that he’s a leader for us. And he still played pretty well, but I know for him like his level is really high. So I think he was dialed in. He was ready to go. Tim O’Branski, works with our faceoff guys, he does a great job. But the other three guys — Shea Keethler, Mitch Lloyd, and Sean Creter, they compete so hard in practice. They give Luke the looks of the guys he’s going against. They are huge for us. They just do an awesome job getting Luke ready, and I think Luke would tell you the same thing.”

Related Links

Maryland gets revenge vs. Virginia, headed back to 17th championship game
Four-star Micah Matthews talks Maryland interest, official visits, timeline
Maryland pledge, target draw invites to U.S. Army Bowl