Coming off back-to-back appearances in national title games, Maryland has been tabbed by many publications as a Final Four qualifier and perhaps an NCAA tournament finalist.
That optimism stems from the program returning eight of 10 starters from last year’s team that went 12-6 and lost, 9-3, to Loyola on Memorial Day. But coach John Tillman said he’s not willing to predict that the current Terps will enjoy similar success based on what the squads of the past two seasons have done.
“This is a new team and a new opportunity for this team to see what they can do,” he said Monday morning on the eve of No. 3 Maryland’s season opener against Mount St. Mary’s. “What happened in the past has happened. Whether we had a really bad year or a good year, we always start fresh. There are new opportunities and guys are playing new roles, and we’re trying to write a new chapter for Maryland lacrosse. We’ve lost some really important guys from the last two years. It’s a lot of fresh faces. It’s a totally different team, and I think everybody has to realize that. We haven’t talked about any road to redemption or anything like that. ... This is a new opportunity, and I think more than anything else, we’re just more concerned about tomorrow.”
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The Terps will meet the Mountaineers without sophomore attackman Kevin Forster, who tore a ligament in his knee in September and is unlikely to return this season.
“We doubt he’ll be back in the near future,” Tillman said of Forster, who recorded three goals and one assist in 17 games last season. “It just depends on what it looks like at the end of the year. We certainly want to be careful with it.”
Tillman also confirmed that sophomore Jay Carlson is expected to join seniors Owen Blye and Billy Gribbin as starters on attack, and senior John Haus, redshirt junior Mike Chanenchuk and redshirt senior Jake Bernhardt will make up the first midfield.
More than the lineup, however, Tillman said he doesn’t want the players to overlook Mount St. Mary’s, which limped to a 6-9 record last year but returns three redshirt seniors. Tillman pointed out that No. 8 Colgate needed overtime to edge Bryant, 14-13, in overtime in their season opener Sunday.
“We showed the guys some clips of Mount St. Mary’s. They’re really good, and they were good last year, and they bring everybody back,” Tillman said. “... They just know what they’re doing, they’re a step faster than some of the other teams. I’m concerned and I hope our guys understand how good they are. We’ve emphasized it. We’ve definitely made sure that our kids understand that this team is going to be very good.”