Members of Maryland’s offense were getting plenty of verbal confirmation about their skills from their teammates and coaches. But hearing the accolades is very different from actually demonstrating that talent.
The much-beleaguered unit exploded in the No. 11 Terps’ 18-6 demolition of visiting Colgate at Byrd Stadium in College Park Saturday. Eleven different players scored a goal as the team matched its output from the three previous contests.
Players on the offensive side of the ball credited the coaching staff with simplifying the game plan against the Raiders. The players dodged effectively to find high-percentage shots, and when opportunities did not emerge, they passed the ball back to teammates for uncontested long-range attempts.
The result? The most goals since a season-opening 23-6 thrashing of Mount St. Mary’s on Feb. 12 and nine assists, which is tied for the second most in 2013.
“We got away from what Maryland lacrosse is, and that’s playing hard, making the little plays, making the hustle plays,” said redshirt junior midfielder Mike Chanenchuk, who recorded four points on three goals and one assist. “Our defense played great, allowing us to get more possessions [and] going out there with some extra confidence and really just making the smart play – the A decision rather than muscling in a shot or a pass that quite wasn’t there. If you saw today, we had a ton of goals that were assisted, and when that happens, it’s a lot easier for everyone.”
The offense scrutinized at length after scoring a season-low four goals in a three-goal loss to No. 13 Johns Hopkins on April 13 and then just six goals in a seven-goal setback to Virginia on April 26. But coach John Tillman said the unit did not hear any criticism within the locker room or meeting rooms.
“I think with them, as much as we tell them they’re good, when they go out and they do it, when you experience success, it’s so much different from someone telling you that you can do it,” Tillman conceded. “… Confidence is a tricky thing. You’ve got to make sure you’re not too high or not too low. But you also need to build confidence.”
As effective as the Terps were against Colgate, the spotlight will not dim as they prepare for the first round of the NCAA tournament. And senior attackman Kevin Cooper – who led all scorers with six points on two goals and four assists – said he and his teammates cannot be content with their play Saturday.
“You can’t just say, ‘Well, the offense is fine,’” the Crofton native and Archbishop Spalding graduate. “We had one good game, but it’s a step in the right direction. We’re just getting back to playing with more confidence and playing unselfish. That’s really our key, just getting everybody involved, and when we’re playing like that, we’re going to be hard to stop.”
*A Raiders offense that had averaged 10.1 goals finished with its third-lowest output of the season. The unit had just one player with multiple goals (sophomore attackman Ryan Walsh had two) and one player with an assist (senior attackman Michael Thomas). One of the curious things Colgate did was have 2012 Tewaaraton Award winner Peter Baum run out of the midfield, and the senior scored just once. “Maybe they just threw him up there for some mismatches or whatever,” Maryland senior long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt said. “But defensively, I think we did a great job of keeping him in front of us when we needed to.” So did the Raiders think that pitting Baum against Bernhardt would work in their favor? “I don’t know,” Bernhardt said. “It was their last game. So I don’t really know the answer to that. I’ll be glad to cover anybody out there, and we always play as a team. So it doesn’t really matter who ends up on him.”
*After relying on sophomore faceoff specialist Charlie Raffa for the first 11 games, the Terps have turned to senior Curtis Holmes. The Marriottsville native and McDonogh graduate won 12-of-22 (54.5 percent) draws Saturday and has succeeded on 21-of-38 (55.3) faceoffs in the team’s last two contests. Raffa, who had won 106-of-190 (55.8) in Maryland’s first 11 games, has taken just nine draws and won four over the same span, but Tillman said Holmes has played his way into more playing time. “He’s healthier, he’s playing better, and he’s a senior,” Tillman said. “His time is short, and we were pretty confident that his sense of urgency would be there. We felt like if Curtis is out there and he knows he doesn’t have too many opportunities left, he’s going to be locked on. We’ve felt like the last two weeks, he’s really shown that.”
*After scoring just one goal in his last three contests, Jay Carlson scored three times against Colgate. The sophomore attackman’s last goal was highlight-reel material as he collected a centering pass from Cooper and flipped a shot behind his back that bounced past freshman goalkeeper Jake Danehy and into the left side of the net. The goal was reminiscent of an off-balanced, behind-the-back shot he converted in the team’s 9-7 win against Virginia on March 30. Cooper said the Cockeysville native and St. Paul’s graduate has earned his teammates’ confidence with his ability to catch and score in tight spaces. “I know that if there’s not a defenseman on his right side, I can find his stick and I’m going to throw it in there pretty much every time,” Cooper said. “I wouldn’t say that I was going to expect him to do that, but whenever he gets in that area, he’s so good at doing that. It increases his angle. He’s just a really special inside player.”