Maryland's depth on defense is being tested.
After graduating a pair of starters in defenseman Matt Dunn and goalkeeper Kyle Bernlohr and its top two long-stick midfielders in Greg Danseglio and Mike McCarney, the Terps will play the rest of this month without starting defenseman Mac Pons.
Coach John Tillman confirmed Monday afternoon during the team's Media Day in College Park that Pons, a senior from Bel Air who graduated from Boys' Latin, is recovering from a lower-body injury that has been nagging him since the fall. Inside Lacrosse was the first to report the injury.
"I wouldn't expect him to play this month," Tillman said. "He's going to try to work his way back. He hasn't practiced yet, but I know he's getting further along every day. So we're hoping we get him back at some point. I think the big thing will be the doctor clearing him to practice and do lacrosse-type moves, and then once they're comfortable, [it's about] us making sure we're confident that he can compete in games, and if we ever feel like he's not there yet, we're certainly going to hold him back because we do have the ability to redshirt him if we like. If he is prepared to go and the doctors feel comfortable he's at a high level, we're certainly not afraid to put him in there."
Pons has started the past two years on defense, picking up a career-high 10 ground balls and causing a career best-tying eight turnovers last spring. He was expected to join senior defenseman Tim Muller, junior defenseman Bryce Young, junior long-stick midfielder Matt Neufeldt, senior short-stick defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen, junior short-stick defensive midfielder Adam DiMillo, and senior goalkeeper Dan Morris to anchor a unit that surrendered only 8.4 goals per game in 2016.
"He's logged a lot of miles, a very experienced guy," Tillman said. "So having a guy that's not only been successful on the ball, but off the ball and we play a team defense, his leadership is something we'd love to have right now. He's just a guy that doesn't get beat very often, and he's a guy that makes guys around him better."
Pons' absence opens the door for sophomore Curtis Corley and freshman Jack Welding to potentially start. Senior Nick Manis, who can play with a pole or a short-stick, could also be in the mix.
Davis-Allen, a first-team All American a year ago, said he is confident that his teammates will pick up the slack in Pons' absence.
"I think for us, Mac has been an awesome player," Davis-Allen said. "He's played the last three years and is a great guy. But I think for us, it's more about the next guy up. We have a lot of good poles. Obviously, Mac's special, but as a team, we can't focus on that. We have to focus on the next game and the next guy."