The day after Maryland's 11-8 loss to North Carolina on Saturday, Mike Chanenchuk called a meeting. The senior midfielder refused to wallow in the disappointment of the setback, which removed the men's lacrosse team from the No. 1 ranking.
In the session, Chanenchuk and his teammates on offense discussed their strengths and shortcomings and then held an informal practice without any prompting from the coaches.
"We usually get together on off days like Sunday," said Chanenchuk (CHAN-en-chuck). "We got together, talked about it, went out on the field without the coaches. We just try to build as much chemistry as we can. If you see teams that go very far, you can tell they've been playing really well together and there's no selfishness. That's what we're trying to build here."
And when Chanenchuk opens up during a meeting or huddle, his teammates listen.
"He's a quiet guy, but this year, he's been a little bit more verbal," junior midfielder Joe LoCascio said. "I think the biggest thing is since his personality is reserved, when he does say things and when he does make a point, everyone's like, 'OK, that's obviously important.'"
Heading into Sunday's league showdown with No. 8 Virginia (8-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), Chanenchuk leads the No. 7 Terps (7-1, 2-1) in goals with 22 and points with 31.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Chanenchuk has become the offense's quarterback despite lining up as a midfielder. While teams usually rely on attackmen to direct the unit, Chanenchuk has been calling sets and has been putting teammates in their assigned spots from the top of the box.
"It might be a little unconventional," conceded Chanenchuk, who is tied for 15th in Division I in goals per game at 2.8 and tied for 19th in points at 3.9. "If you look at a lot of other teams, they have veteran attackmen in that role. But I'm on the field for the majority of the game on offense, and it doesn't really matter if I'm behind the cage or up top. So it's not too difficult."
Chanenchuk acknowledged that as the only senior starter on the offensive side of the field, he has felt compelled to be a bit more talkative than in years past.
"If there's little things that I see during the game that we can improve on, usually after we get a goal, we can bring it in, and if I have anything to say, I'll say it," he said. "And other guys have been doing that, too. Joe LoCascio has been really good at that. He's played in all three of his years here. He's pretty good as well. So it's not necessarily just me. It's the whole offense. It's working out pretty well so far."
In previous years, Chanenchuk, who transferred from Princeton in time for the 2012 campaign, could lean on former teammates like attackman Joe Cummings (Loyola High) and midfielders Jake Bernhardt and John Haus for leadership. That responsibility is now on Chanenchuk's shoulders, and it is a duty that he is quite mindful of, according to Maryland coach John Tillman.
"I think Mike is a guy that has high standards," he said. "As an older player, he probably just wants that responsibility and realizes that he's a captain and a leader. So he wants to help out the younger guys. We don't put any extra pressure on him. That's not what we've talked about all year. We've talked about how if we're going to be good, that's going to be done by committee and every week, it's going to be a little bit different. Knowing Michael, he just cares so much. He wants to be that type of guy."
The most obvious way Chanenchuk can help is scoring goals. He either led or tied for the team lead in goals in the Terps' victories over then-No. 1 Duke, Stony Brook and Villanova, and has scored at least two goals in seven contests.
The only game in which Chanenchuk did not score multiple times occurred Saturday against the then-No. 7 Tar Heels.
Chanenchuk's threat as a scorer persuaded the Tar Heels to assign their best defenseman, senior Jordan Smith, to him, coach Joe Breschi said.
"We know how good Chanenchuk is and the season he's been having, and we just wanted to take him out of his comfort zone a little bit and just stay on his gloves and slide when we needed to," Breschi said. "He's a terrific player who can break down a defense. So we slid to him pretty quickly. But at the same time, I thought Jordan Smith did a nice job of just staying in his gloves. He's such a terrific shooter that we just wanted to make sure that if he did get into his comfort zone — which is his right hand — we wanted to make sure that it came in a hurry."
In the three years that Chanenchuk has been at Maryland, the team is 14-3 when he's scored at least two goals. But he dismissed the notion that the Terps will go as he goes this season.
"I don't think that's true," he said. "We didn't have as much input as a whole group against Carolina. … We didn't do as well as we could have. There were a lot of mistakes that UNC capitalized on. If everybody can get one or two goals, we're going to be in a really good spot."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun