Now that Maryland is the unanimous No. 1 team in Division I, these must be heady times in College Park for a youthful squad picked to finish last in the program’s final year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, right?
Not so, according to junior attackman Jay Carlson.
“Right now, it’s just really early,” the St. Paul’s graduate said. “It’s early March, and we’re not too worried about that right now. We’re just worried about the next game. We don’t really like to worry about the rankings too much because early in the season, we weren’t ranked too high, and after just a couple games, everything can change so much. So we just want to be No. 1 when it comes to the end of the year.”
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That wisdom seems appropriate as upsets have littered the landscape. In particular, No. 14 Drexel followed an upset of then-No. 7 Albany with an overtime loss to a previously winless Villanova team on Feb. 25, and Bucknell dropped a one-goal decision to Colgate after opening play in the Patriot League with a win against Navy.
On Saturday, the Terps (4-0) will clash with a Stony Brook squad (2-2) that opened the season with a loss to Marist and has alternated wins and losses since then. But coach John Tillman said he intends to do everything in his power to help Maryland avoid a letdown after emotionally-charged victories over then-No. 2 Syracuse on Feb. 22 and then-No. 1 and reigning national champion Duke on Saturday.
“After two conference games and then the defending national champion, there’s definitely always concern for that,” he conceded. “Any time you’re in a conference game, the kids on the team know the magnitude of conference games. So when you step outside the conference, it’s a different dynamic. I think our guys have a lot of respect for Stony Brook. That was a team last year that lost in the closing seconds against Yale by a goal, and Yale was seconds away from beating Syracuse in the Final Four. And they lost to Albany by two goals [in an America East tournament semifinal], and Albany is a top 10 program. So that team has really garnered our attention.”
The Terps were No. 1 a year ago in March before fading down the stretch and getting bounced by Cornell in the first round of the NCAA tournament. That memory has helped the players remain grounded about the sudden love they are getting by fans and pollsters.
“We still can’t be too high on ourselves because we understand how it’s really early in the season,” Carlson said. “We’re still hungry, and that’s what our coaches have been trying to emphasize to us every day. We still battle it out every day in practice. We look forward to the competition between the offense and the defense. We just enjoy competing. So we don’t try to worry about that too much.”