Maryland defenseman Mike Bonanni thrives on driving his opponent into the ground. Whether it's a walloping body check or a menacing thwack of his stick, he intends to be the one left standing after the impact.
So after flushing out the cuts and taking care of the bruises, Bonanni can kick back and begin countless hours of work for his business and finance courses.
That's the life of Bonanni, part-time warrior and full-time graduate student, who's in pursuit of his master's degree in Maryland's MBA program. With the combination of delicate planning and some sleepless nights, he has tackled the odds, winning the Athletic Director Award as the top male student-athlete at Maryland and propelling the Terrapins to their third final four in four years.
"Bo is the story you want to tell to kids, with what he has done academically and physically," Terps coach Dick Edell said of Bonanni, one of only two two-year captains in the past 15 years of Maryland lacrosse. "You look at him in street clothes, and every hair is in place. Most tigers have a wild look. Bo would be the last guy in a lineup that you would pick as the enforcer. But he has had some of the best hits I've seen in the last four years."
Nevertheless, the fifth-year senior brings more than just brawn and a 3.8 grade-point average.
Unlike most teams in which the goalkeeper directs the defense, the Terps respond to Bonanni's commands. He yells out defensive sets, analyzes offensive schemes and initiates double teams.
That has lifted pressure off first-year goalkeeper Kevin Healy, the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year, who could solely concentrate on just making saves. Bonanni's all-around impact has become the backbone of Maryland's defense, which has allowed an average of 8.7 goals.
"He's the general on defense," sophomore defenseman Casey Connor said. "If he's not coming, he's always got someone else coming for you. That's definitely a plus. He helps us play more aggressive that way. We can play pressure defense because we know he's going to be there to slide."
Keep in mind that Bonanni is a self-made defenseman.
Coming out of DeMatha High as an offensive midfielder, he redshirted the 1994 season to develop as a short-stick defender. After only a year on the defensive midfield, Edell asked Bonanni to make another switch.
"He told me that he wanted me to move to close defense," said Bonanni, 23, a Davidsonville native. "I had never picked up a long stick in my life, and now they wanted me to play close defense for a top Division I program."
Challenges only push Bonanni.
Over the past three seasons, he has bulked up 25 pounds to his current weight of 185 and has more than filled the role as the Terps' intimidator around the crease. Plus, he supplies a rare brand of double duty, alternating between long-pole defense and short-stick midfield this season.
And looking back at his collegiate career, trading in goal-scoring opportunities for helmet-to-helmet collisions wasn't that awful for Bonanni.
"If a guy takes a shot, he shouldn't be standing," he said. "That's how I feel. I hope someone picks that up and continues it when I'm gone."
But Bonanni was the one who felt the pain in an early March practice last year. Catching his foot on the artificial turf, he broke his right leg in three places and tore ligaments in his ankle.
Sidelined for just seven games, Bonanni rushed back from injury, which at first had a season-ending prognosis. His return rejuvenated the floundering Terps, providing a cohesive manner to lift them to five straight victories and a national championship appearance.
During that run, he suffered a partial concussion as a result of a violent check in a quarterfinal game against Virginia. Within minutes, he was back on the field after missing just one shift.
"I don't think you can make a leader," Edell said. "Michael earns a special admiration for the primary reason how hard he works. He's not a natural by any means. He works for what he gets, and the other guys respect that."
Bonanni graduated last May with a cumulative GPA of 3.7 in marketing. He could have just focused on graduate school, but decided to take a chance on a possible national championship in his future as well as to give something back to his past.
"I'm the only guy here that remembers the tough times when watching the NCAA tournament selection show, we wondered if our season would continue," he said. "But I also remember as a freshman watching the seniors set the tone, and it was a trickle-down effect.
"I hope I made that same impression. That's why I want to come back in a few years to see this year's freshman class. I want to see if I made any major impact."
Maryland at a glance
Location: College Park
Coach: Dick Edell (15 years, 137-62)
Streak: Won two straight
NCAA tournament seed: No. 5
Final Four appearance: Sixth
How the Terps got here: Beat Butler, 18-10, in the first round; beat Johns Hopkins, 11-10, in overtime in the quarterfinals.
Tournament record: 30-20
NCAA Division I titles: Two (1973, 1975)
Final Four opponent: Loyola
All-time record vs. Greyhounds: 18-1
Goals leader: Matt Hahn (44)
Assists: Andrew Whipple (34)
Ground balls: Brian Haggerty (117)
Faceoffs: Haggerty (.631)
Goalkeeper: Kevin Healy (.609)
TTC At Rutgers
No. 5 seed Maryland vs. No. 1 Loyola, noon, ESPN2
No. 2 Princeton vs. No. 3 Syracuse, 45 minutes after first game, ESPN2
10: 55 a.m., ESPN
Pub Date: 5/22/98