Charlie Raffa's senior year didn't get off to the start Maryland had been hoping for.
The No. 7 Terps cruised to an 8-1 victory at Navy on Saturday, but the senior faceoff specialist won just 4 of 11 draws (36.4 percent), collected three ground balls, and committed one turnover. Raffa, a second-team All American last season who ranked second in Division I in faceoff percentage (68.6) and 11th in ground balls per game (7.6), was outplayed by Navy sophomore Brady Dove, who won 7 of 9 faceoffs (77.8 percent).
"Charlie just needs to kind of get better," coach John Tillman said Tuesday. "He has been really rested in the fall because of the significance of his [knee] injury [last spring]. So that was really his first extensive action. He looked a little rusty. So we've got to continue to push him and get him back into game shape. Yet we've got to be sensitive to the fact that when you faceoff, you're putting yourself in a very compromising position. So we want to get him back, but we don't want to do it so fast that we kind of push him backward because of an injury."
Tillman also pointed out that Raffa's struggles on Saturday could be traced to his lack of familiarity with his teammates on the wings. Last year, long-stick midfielder Michael Ehrhardt and short-stick defensive midfielder Brian Cooper manned the wings and ranked second and third on the team, respectively, in ground balls.
Three short-stick defensive midfielders in sophomore Isaiah Davis-Allen, senior Bobby Gribbin, and freshman Adam DiMillo and two long-stick midfielders in junior Mike McCarney and freshman Matt Neufeldt have rotated on the wings, and that group is getting adjusted to Raffa and vice versa, Tillman said.
"Those guys are getting better," he said. "A lot of it is just experience and kind of working together. And again, Charlie didn't really face off much in the two [scrimmages], and faceoff guys are a little bit different.
"Each guy has his move, and when you get in there and you're playing the wings, there is some comfort when you're getting a lot of reps and you're seeing a guy go down and you know what he wants to do when he gets locked up. A lot of times, there is some non-verbal communication that goes on, and you just have a sense of where that ball's going."