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Maryland men's lacrosse is taking patient approach with injured faceoff specialist Austin Henningsen

Despite sitting out Maryland's past two games, freshman Austin Henningsen still ranks 13th in Division I with a 62.3 faceoff percentage and 31st with a 4.3 ground ball average. But whether he will be able to improve on those numbers is unclear.

Coach John Tillman said a leg injury suffered in the second quarter of the No. 5 Terps' eventual 11-10 overtime win at No. 17 Penn State on April 10 continues to bother Henningsen. And because of the dependency of the faceoff position on one's legs, Tillman said the program is being very cautious with Henningsen's return.

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"With Austin, he got a little nicked up at Penn State, and we're trying to feel him out and kind of see where he is," Tillman said Thursday. "The hard part with his position is – and candidly, I thought he'd be back by now – and we dealt with this with Charlie [Raffa last spring], if a guy gets a little banged up and he's playing attack or defense, I think it's almost easier to get back. When you start on a knee and the nature of the position is a compromising position just by your stance, I think with us, we're a lot more conservative with our faceoff guys just because of the way they are."

The dilemma for Maryland (10-2 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten) has been alleviated by the emergence of fellow freshman Will Bonaparte. In Henningsen's absence, Bonaparte has won 57.6 percent (34-of-59) of his draws and collected 16 ground balls.

While crediting volunteer assistant coach Chris Mattes for developing a pair of freshmen after the graduation of Raffa, who finished his career ranked third in program history in ground balls (274) and fourth in faceoff wins (498), Tillman said Bonaparte has played well enough to be the primary starter for now.

"I do think that Will has given us the luxury of kind of staying with the hot hand," Tillman said. "Even if Austin was healthy right now, I think we're starting with Will and then we'll see what happens. And sometimes with faceoff guys, even the other night, we felt like it didn't go as well as we'd like, but Will kind of worked his way out of it. … Will's done such a good job of after the ball's loose, fighting and scrapping and handling the pressure. He is really athletic. He's really fast, typically faster than most of the faceoff guys he's going against."

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