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Denver's high-scoring Snider owes part of his success to Bayhawks' Cottle

When he first arrived in College Park in the fall of 2007, Drew Snider didn't feel comfortable.

The Seattle native attended Maryland to play for one of the nation's most storied lacrosse programs, but he didn't know anyone on the East Coast. Snider also struggled to get acclimated to both the college lifestyle and the speed of college lacrosse.

So coach Dave Cottle called the young midfielder into his office for a meeting that fall. Cottle The Terps' coach explained that the team would make Snider feel at home and encouraged him to channel his emotions into productivity on the field.

Nearly six years later, Snider credits that conversation as a turning point in his career. Saturday night, Snider will again cross paths with his former coach when his Major League Lacrosse-leading Denver Outlaws (6-0) take on Cottle and the Bayhawks (4-2) at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Snider, now 25, is tied for fourth in the league in scoring.

"He can dodge, he can shoot and he's really versatile," Cottle said. "Drew's been a really good player in this league the last two years."

Snider said his success stems from feeling comfortable and confident, traits Cottle helped engrain into his personality.

Still, Snider's most productive seasons as a Terp came after the coach left Maryland and joined the Bayhawks staff in 2010. Snider didn't play many minutes as a freshman and redshirted the next year with a back injury.

He saw increased playing time during Cottle's final year at Maryland and made modest contributions as a two-way midfielder, but he was still hampered by back issues.

Finally healthy and at ease in College Park, Snider flourished under coach John Tillman, combining for 51 points over his final two colligate seasons. He even spearheaded the Terps' run to the 2012 national championship game with 10 goals in first three rounds of the NCAA tournament.

"I think things really came together those last few years," Snider said. "It didn't have much to do with the coaching switch, it was just that with more experience things started to click."

Despite Snider's torrid run through the tournament, his quick ascent up the MLL scoring charts has been unexpected. Chesapeake selected Snider with the 45th pick in the 2012 draft but traded him to Denver before the season began.

Snider carved out a niche as a strong defensive midfielder for the Outlaws in his rookie year. This season, he's been a focus of Denver's offense and has again found a comfort level on the field.

He has 16 goals — including a 2-point-goal — and seven assists through the season's first six games after scoring just 12 points in 10 games last summer.

"Did we think he would be this prolific of a scorer when we first got him? No," Denver coach Jim Stagnitta said. "But we knew he had plenty of talent. I think this is the first time in his career he's been counted on to dodge his man and score consistently, and he's taken advantage of every opportunity."

Both Cottle and Stagnitta said Snider's accurate shooting has helped him evolve into one of MLL's top scorers. His .444 shooting percentage is third among the league's midfielders.

But ask Snider how he's been able to put up gaudy numbers this season and he'll credit his teammates. He's part of MLL's most prolific scoring offense and is one of three Outlaws — along with attackmen Brendan Mundorf and Chris Brocklet — who rank in the top five in points.

"Lacrosse is a team sport," Snider said. "We have so many good players, and it really opens it up for me and everyone else. That's why we've had some success."

Denver, the last unbeaten team in MLL, will test its offense Saturday against Chesapeake's top-ranked scoring defense.

For Snider, the game represents a return to the area where the foundation of his career was built. And a chance to chat with the man who helped build it.

"Both the state of Maryland and coach Cottle have done a lot for me," Snider said. "I'm always excited to go back."

Cottle also said he's eager to spend time with Snider and that he always enjoys competing against former players. Yet he knows in those games, there's more at stake than just wins and losses.

"It's really fun to play against [former players]," Cottle said. "But I can't lose to them. Are you kidding me? Those knuckleheads will never let me hear the end of it."

akasinitz@baltsun.com

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