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Sports Lacrosse Insider

Maryland flexing its muscles on defense

While No. 6 Maryland addresses recent troubles on its offense that cropped up during Saturday’s 7-4 loss to No. 13 Johns Hopkins, the team can take some comfort in the play of its defense.

The Terps (8-2) are ranked third in Division I in defense, allowing just an average of 7.30 goals and trailing only Hofstra (7.00) and No. 10 Penn State (7.25) in that department. The program is 117-26 in games in which opponents have scored less than 10 goals since 2002.

The unit’s performance should not be too much of a surprise considering that it was returning a three-year starting goalie in redshirt junior Niko Amato and a bevy of two-year starters, including senior long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt, defensemen Michael Ehrhardt and Goran Murray and senior short-stick defensive midfielder Landon Carr.

“I think that’s an area where when you look at what we’ve done this year, we had a lot of experience coming back,” coach John Tillman said during his weekly conference call Tuesday morning. “We felt like if we do a good job there and Niko plays well, we have a chance to be pretty consistent. We always have some tweaking. We’ll tweak some matchups or we’ll maybe tweak how we slide or tweak how we defend either the invert or picks or shading kids. I do think the guys are getting a little better feel for each other, and I think in some of the big games, we’ve gotten pretty good performances out of Niko and that helps.”

Opposing offenses are converting just 24.5 percent of their shots, and Maryland is 6-1 this season when opponents are held to less than 30 percent. The only hiccup occurred Saturday when the Blue Jays shot just 22.6 percent but still scratched out a three-goal win. Tillman said there are lessons to be learned from that setback for the defense.

“There were some openings on Saturday that we’ve got to improve upon,” he said. “Niko bailed us out a couple times. So we can’t just look at the scoreboard. We’ve got to look and ask, ‘How many quality opportunities did the opponent get?’ and we need to reduce those opportunities as we go down the stretch here.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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