Watching Kevin Cooper play attack wasn’t surprising considering that the Maryland senior had done it occasionally towards the end of last season. Watching him perform as well as he did in the No. 3 Terps’ 23-6 thrashing of Mount St. Mary’s Tuesday night may have been.
Cooper led all scorers with six points on three goals and three assists and appeared to mesh nicely with fellow seniors and starters Owen Blye and Billy Gribbin. Cooper had been a mainstay on the second midfield last year, but said he enjoys both spots.
“Everybody on offense is pretty versatile,” the Crofton native and Archbishop Spalding graduate. “It’s always good to be able to play both positions. I bumped down at the end of last year, and it’s just something that we’ve been trying out a little bit. I’m comfortable at either position, so wherever I can help the team is good.”
At 6 feet, 4 inches and 205 pounds, Cooper is a load for opposing defensemen. But his field vision is overlooked, according to redshirt senior midfielder Jake Bernhardt.
“Kev’s a great player,” he said. “He brings a different dimension down at attack. He’s a physical player and likes to body people up, but he also has great vision. He got me on that crease play [in the third quarter]. Kev likes to get into guys, but he keeps his head up. Sometimes they like to double-pole up, but now they have to respect that he’s down there, and if they’re going to do that, it’s a double-edged sword.”
Cooper said he has no preference regarding whether he would like to stay at attack or return to midfield, but when asked, he did note his ability to gel with Blye (one goal and one assist) and Gribbin (two goals).
“I think I have good chemistry with all those guys,” Cooper said. “Owen and Billy are seniors, and I’ve played with Billy for two years now, and I’ve played four years with Owen. It comes natural – playing up top or down low. The chemistry is really good on offense.”
*Maryland junior Brian Cooper started on defense Tuesday, but not at his customary close defenseman position. Cooper, who is Kevin Cooper’s younger brother, traded his long pole for a short stick, which was his role prior to 2012. Coach John Tillman said Cooper was receptive to the shift. “We told him what we need, and he was awesome,” Tillman said. “He was like, ‘Yeah, if this is what the team needs, then this is what I’ll do.’ And that says a lot about Brian.” Cooper’s move was made possible due to the development of junior Casey Ikeda and freshman Matt Dunn. Ikeda, who finished with two ground balls in his first career start, sat out 2011 after undergoing shoulder surgery in the offseason and missed the first eight games of 2012 after suffering a ruptured spleen. “So for two years, he has just been standing there waiting and waiting,” Tillman said. “And for two years, just to be doing his rehab was tough, and when he came back last year, he just wasn’t the same guy.”
*The Terps cruised through their season opener, but Bernhardt cautioned against underestimating Mount St. Mary’s. “Don’t let the score fool you,” he said. “They’re a good team. Those attackmen that they have are really good players. I had a chance to play with that kid, [senior Andrew] Scalley over the summer, and I thought he was amazing. I was telling Coach Tillman all week that he could have played here if he wanted to. He’s just one of those late bloomer guys.”
*The early hole the Mountaineers found themselves in could be traced to the team’s inability to win faceoffs. The team won just 7-of-32 draws, including just 2-of-10 in the first quarter when the Terps sprinted to an 8-1 advantage. Senior Jon Marsalese won just 5-of-15 faceoffs, but the trio of freshman Evan Gormley, sophomore Nick Haley and junior Brett Shukri won just 2-of-17. That’s why coach Tom Gravante was ready to give up on Marsalese just yet. “We’re still going to need to work on that,” he said. “… It’s wide open, based on who can separate himself. But the fact is, Jon Marsalese is our No. 1 faceoff guy.”