In the end, it wasn’t difficult for Maryland midfielder Jake Bernhardt to do the math.
The senior, who had not played this season after suffering a shoulder injury in a preseason scrimmage, is taking a medical hardship and said Thursday he will return to College Park next season. It’s a sensible move, considering Maryland (9-4) has only one regular-season game remaining as well as the NCAA tournament.
“Even halfway through the season, I knew I didn’t want this to be my senior year,” Bernhardt said. “It doesn’t sound great because you come in with these guys and these guys are great kids.”
No matter how it sounds, it’s the most logical outcome for all parties.
The upside is obvious for both Bernhardt and the Terrapins. Maryland gets a full year out of a versatile player who can both play effectively on the first midfield (Bernhardt scored 15 goals last season), produce solid work on the faceoff wing and provide an option in the defensive midfield.
Bernhardt, meanwhile, will get roughly 15 games instead of a handful and the opportunity to play his final season with brother Jesse, a junior long pole this season.
“Nobody wants to lose an entire season,” Jesse Bernhardt said. “I think it’s a good decision. Obviously, I’m excited about it to get another year with him. … I think he’s done a pretty good job and taking it better than some guys would.”
One of the biggest hurdles for coach John Tillman was working out the finances and shuffling scholarship money to make a return more feasible.
Ultimately, though, he allowed Jake Bernhardt to make the decision himself.
“I’d love to have him back selfishly for this year, but having him back for a whole year would be great,” Tillman said. “You never know if you’ll be in this spot next year, but he’s been such a loyal guy and such a good soldier that for him to play a whole year, I’ll defer to that because he’s done everything we’ve ever asked.”
That’s included this season since Bernhardt was hurt chasing a groundball on a faceoff against Loyola in February. He’s done some work at practice in recent weeks even though he’s not fully healthy, and remained a presence in the program and traveled to all road games.
“We knew it was going to be a long process due to the injury and surgery,” Bernhardt said. “That always has to come into play with the recovery and they didn’t want to rush me back. Everything just took a little bit longer. By the time we got to the end of the season, I didn’t think it was worth it for myself to play for only two games and then move on. I want to have my whole entire senior season.”