Preseason scrimmages are usually the time when lacrosse coaches send out many players to gauge who can contribute immediately and who might develop in the near future. That approach could extend into the regular season for John Tillman.
The Maryland coach said he plans to spread playing time among a healthy number of players in Saturday’s season opener against Mount St. Mary’s at noon at Byrd Stadium in College Park in an effort to see who deserves to get significant time in upcoming games.
“I think you’ll see five attackmen or so in the first half on Saturday,” Tillman said Tuesday. “I think you’ll see six or seven midfielders in the first half. We want to see these guys in game situations and see how they play. We’re keeping an open mind on some of these guys because there are some guys that may practice pretty well, but when they get into games, they may not perform quite as well. And then there are guys that are – and I hate to use this term – gamers and all of a sudden, they get out there and are a different guy. We’re going to see how those guys develop. I think you’ll see four short sticks, two or three poles, a four- or five-man rotation defensively. I guess the downside is maybe not having those dominant pieces. Yet the upside is we would play more people and be fresher and the guys that are in there would be more focused [knowing] that they’re going to have an opportunity to make the most of it.”
The Terps returned six starters, including all three defensemen in senior Michael Ehrhardt and juniors Goran Murray and Casey Ikeda and senior goalkeeper Niko Amato. But they brought back only two starters on offense in senior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk and junior attackman Jay Carlson, which means that a number of new faces will dot the attack and midfield.
That puts the onus on the players to execute what the coaches are calling.
“We’ve got to value every possession offensively, defensively, every clearing opportunity, every riding opportunity. We’re not there yet,” Tillman said. “We realize that there’s a certain way we need to play. So we’re giving the guys that have earned these opportunities a chance because we feel like they give us the best chance to win. For a lot of them, it’s really, really close. Given that, we want to give some guys opportunities, but they’ve earned that. If it was clear-cut and I knew which three would be starting at attack, the first six middies, and which guys played best together, we’d do that. I just think that with so much practice in the fall and just a couple of scrimmages and so many guys in and out of the lineup, we’re just not there yet.”