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A PERFECT ENDING: CORNING'S MCNANEY, TILLMAN ENJOY MAGICAL UNBEATEN NATIONAL TITLE SEASON WITH TERPS (2022-06-22)

By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
When Logan McNaney took the field at Rentschler Field for the first practice for this year’s final four games he had a lot of memories flood back.

One year earlier the Corning native, was on the field with Maryland playing in the national title game. That night, the Terps bid for a perfect season came up just short in a 17-16 Virginia win, and it was a feeling that McNaney didn’t want to experience again.

“I have had my share of being in championships, losing some, winning some,” McNaney said. “That Friday before Memorial Day Weekend we had our first practice in Connecticut on the field we lost on last year. There were some emotions that poured in, it kind of brought me back to what happened last year. I realized I did not want that to happen again. I think a lot of other guys felt the same way and we were going to do anything to win those games.”

Maryland coach John Tillman, a Corning West graduate, knew it was going to take a lot to get back to the final and walk away with a victory this year.

“We talked about it in the meeting (to end the season),” Tillman said during his end of season zoom media session. “With the way things ended last year, and knowing if we were going to try and end the game with a W you’d have to come back to Hartford. Even Logan mentioned it when we came to practice on Friday and stepped into the stadium, he said it brought back a lot of different emotions.

“He played great on Saturday (last year) and then obviously we lost to Virginia on Monday, so a lotto things were going through his head and through a lot of guys heads. I think getting that close and feeling lie we dint’ play our best game really motivated this team to think let’s push a little harder.”

The feeling after this year’s national title game was a lot different as McNaney and Maryland beat Cornell 9-7 to complete an 18-0 season, becoming the first unbeaten national champion since 2006.

“It’s awesome,” McNaney said. “It’s not like something like that happens every day and to do it with such a great group of friends and brothers, and to celebrate with them. And, then to come home and have a lot of people congratulate me means a lot to me.”

It was a magical performance by McNaney, who made 17 saves in the title game, and 61 in the tournament, and was named the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.

Once he started making saves McNaney just built more and more confidence through the final.

“Every game I go into it the same way,” McNaney said. “On a micro level making those first few saves gives me confidence I can make more saves later in the game. Growing up, I have had games like that, I knew I could do that. I guess it gives me a little more confidence in my ability and I’m going to kind of ride with it now.”

Now that nationals is over, McNaney has been able to reflect a bit on what the team did this year.

“I have been reading into some things, looking at some of the numbers,” McNaney said. “It’s amazing how dominant we were at face-off, defense, goalie play, our offense was tremendous. Looking back on our team, it’s even more than that, this was such a special group we had.

“We had a new locker room this year, our old football locker room, it’s pretty big. We had a lot of space to work with and we put couches in there and TV’s and were able to watch film. I think that had something to do with our success, everyone was so close together this year.”

The season the team had this year is really fun to think about historically. It’s fun to talk and compare to teams from the past, like some of the old Syracuse or Virginia teams, but Tillman also knows it’s just that, a topic for discussion.

“To go 18-0 is unbelievable, we never really thought about doing that, its just kind of happened,” Tillman said. “When the regular season was over you think we have the Big 10s and we have the NCAA’s, if you are going to drop one you don’t want to drop one now. We didn’t really bring it up, we didn’t really put pressure on the kids, they just had to enjoy the run.

“I just couldn’t be more proud of this group. Looking at the group, I don’t think there’s much more we could have asked for room them. In a lot of ways this team did so much that’s awesome. The comparison stuff is awesome because it makes for a fun debate. I think it’s fun to do. I think if you are a guy that loves Syracuse, or Virginia or Maryland you can kind of debate and raz each other. What’s unquote though with the way lacrosse is now it’s really hard to compare. You look at those Syracuse teams, they were awesome. They were when I was in college, and having played with Gary (Gait), I agree with you, he’s the best player ever. It’s hard to compare though. There was no shot clock, the rules are different. The game is different now. For anyone to kind dig their heels in and say unequivocally one way or another, it’s hard because the game is different.”

Tillman knows that the players heard people talking about them being undefeated, but the players didn’t let that impact them.

“Our leadership, our leaders and coaches did a such a good job of making sure we stay the course and not think too much big picture,” McNaney said. “Once you fall into the trap of reading everything on social media of how great of a team we are, or in contention for best team ever you lose focus on what you are trying to accomplish. I don’t think it (the talk of being unbeaten) was to the point it affected how we played.”

For McNaney last year’s loss was motivation, but it wasn’t something he let himself dwell on at all.

“I think it did for a lot of us,” McNaney said of motivating them. “We try not to get too involved with that, we try not to think too much about it. When you put mindset on we want to redeemer ourselves you kind of take a different approach to things. I think we used it as motivation, but we didn’t let it kind of take up too much of our mindset. We just tried to keep getting better every week.”

For McNaney it’s been special seeing the reaction back in Corning.

“There have been a lot of people that have come up to me and congratulated me,” he said. “Even people I don’t know the best. It’s nice to know so many people follow my journey and watch my games, that really means a lot to me. People that have been supporting me, it’s really special.”

McNaney is one of two Corning grads to win a national lacrosse title this year, as Seth Grottenthaler won his second straight Division III National Title at RIT.

A year ago McNaney remembers talking about his season along with Grottenthaler and Corning’s Casey Nevins (whose LeMoyne team was in a national final) and he remembers how last year ended.

“Kind of this time last year I was doing some interviews with local news and we had three last year, me,  Casey Nevins and Seth. I kind of remember that and realized how it felt I wasn’t the one to win a National Championship. With Seth, we do stay in touch, it’s really cool to see him do that. He had an ACL injury and came back stronger than ever. He’s very resilient, it’s difficult to do that at that level coming off an ACL injury and to see him win two years in a row is really cool.”

So, how about two straight for McNaney next year?

“Maybe three,” McNaney said.

McNaney will use his Covid year and he’s planning to play two more seasons for the Terps.

“I’ll graduate next year and then get my masters for my fifth year,” McNaney said.

While Covid was a tough time, the one blessing from it for McNaney is he’ll get a chance to leave college with his masters, while playing lacrosse throughout that time.

“I might not have thought of it that way during Covid, but I kind of realized it was kind of a blessing in disguise academically,” McNaney said. “You are able to get your degree and do further education after that and be able to play at the same. A lot are not able to, some have to transfer out, or pay more, but it’s cool for athletes who can graduate on time and do higher education for that last year.”

McNaney is majoring in economics and will do a masters in economics.

 For McNaney he’s ready to see if the team can repeat next year.

“I’m super excited,” McNaney said. “Every year is a little different. We have some guys moving out, but the message still stays the same, to be the best. I know it’s kind of cheesy and you probably hear it a lot, but it’s really important not just in our experience in lacrosse, but others can benefit in that saying to be the best in everything you do. On the field for us, in the work field, in school. I believe that our team next year is going to continue with that mantra. It’s going to be a new team, we have some guys leaving, and some younger guys stepping up and some other guys that will fill leadership positions that have learned lessons of the last couple of years. But, our coaches will look at previous years and see what we are working with.”

The head coach for Maryland has a similar backgrounwin as much as possible. It takes a lot, a lot of film work, a lot of details.

“Me and him both being from Corning is really cool. We kind of joked after the game, not too bad a couple of guys coming from Corning. We know our roots and where we grew up and it’s special for us to finish the season off like that.”

For McNaney after winning nationals he heard from so many people.

“My phone blew up after the game,” McNaney said. “It’s really cool, I have had the support the whole way. It’s been a pretty special group of friends, family and people I’m not even familiar with supporting my journey.

“I love this place. I grew up here (in Corning). I ended up transferring to (prep school) Salisbury for a couple of years and it was beneficial to me in the grand scheme of things. Coming from a small town like this, everyone knows everybody. Growing up going to all the lacrosse camps, looking back at that time, you would dream of getting to a championship weekend and it’s really cool.”

While McNaney will play a fifth year for Maryland, he’ll be in his fourth year next year and a a senior leaders on the team.

“I feel it in my back, my back is a little sore,” McNaney said of getting older. “Taking that leap from sophomore to junior year you are starting to get to that upperclassmen level and getting close to the real world. Time flies.”

It’s back to work quickly for McNaney and the Terps.

“You kind of enjoy it for the next couple of weeks,” McNaney said. “I’ve never been through this situation. You kind of take it all in the next few weeks, but once it’s time you get back to it.

“I already started lifting last week. I played a couple tournaments throughout the summer, nothing too competitive just get stick in my hands. I’ll be doing a couple camps and clinics.”

Maryland loses a lot of good leaders from this year’s team, but they have a lot back for next year as well.

“I think like any year here we put so much on our older guys,” Tillman said. “There is that hope that every year the seniors, they kind of maximize their potential. They have been here, they kind of understand what you do, they work hard. They have that year where they obviously play well, but they also have an impact on the team.

“I am confident that the guys that are below them (this year’s leaders) can evolve into a good leadership group.”

McNaney has two more years with Maryland, and then he’ll see what the future holes, including the possibility of pro lacrosse if that is something he gets the chance to do.

“I have played lacrosse my whole life, if that opportunity is there for me, I’m willing to take it,” McNaney said. “I love lacrosse. My mom was a coach, my dad played. Lacrosse has been a part of my life forever. I will possibly do camps, or clinics. Lacrosse will be a part of my life forever.”
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PHOTOS COURTESY OF MARYLAND ATHLETICS.


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