Much of the optimism bubbling within Louis Dubick before the start of the season evaporated when he found himself running with the third midfield in the Maryland lacrosse team’s final scrimmage.
“I was like, ‘Oh boy, I know we’re still figuring things out, but …,’ ” he recalled Tuesday of that Jan. 26 game at Georgetown before changing the subject.
But two days later and five days before the program’s Feb. 2 season opener against Bucknell, Dubick received a text message from coach John Tillman about 30 minutes before practice began.
“I got a text from Coach Tills saying, ‘Hey, just a heads up, but the plan is for you to play a lot. So just keep doing what you’re doing, making good decisions, and we’ll see where it goes,’ ” he said. “I got out to practice that day, and I was running with [redshirt sophomore] Logan [Wisnauskas] and [junior] Jared [Bernhardt] on attack, and I was thinking, ‘All right, maybe I’m starting this week,’ and the rest just kind of went from there.”
In his senior and final season, the 5-foot-8, 165-pound attackman has blossomed into a mainstay for the offense, starting all 16 games for the Terps (12-4), who will meet No. 3 seed Virginia (14-3) in an NCAA Division I tournament quarterfinal at noon Saturday in Hempstead, N.Y.
Dubick ranks third on the team in goals with 29 and totaled two goals and two assists in Sunday’s 14-13 overtime win at No. 6 seed Towson in the first round. He scored the winning goal with 2:21 left in the extra session.
“You kind of dream about having a season like this as a kid,” he said. “We talk about it a lot around here of just waiting your time and being patient because there are so many good players here and there’s a reason why we’ve been so successful, and that’s because of the guys in the locker room and how much talent we’ve had on this team. You know that anyone on the team can step in at any moment and fill a role, and you have confidence in them.
“Luckily enough, I’ve found my role and my coaches and teammates have enough confidence in me to fulfill that role.”
Dubick’s year has been especially rewarding considering his journey to this stage of his career. The Potomac resident graduated from Churchill in Montgomery County as the state’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points, and Bulldogs coach Jeff Fritz called Dubick a “once-in-a-generation player.”
“He was a leader even as a freshman on the field,” Fritz said. “He took charge. Wise and mature beyond his years. The hardest worker on the field, always the first guy on the field and the last guy to leave. He embodies Churchill lacrosse and is everything you could ever ask for in a player.”
But when Dubick joined Maryland, he was relegated to the bench, on the periphery of the starting offense as a second-line midfielder or a fourth attackman. In his first three seasons, he totaled 13 goals and four assists, and seven of those goals were on the extra-man unit.
Dubick said he never considered transferring or quitting, but acknowledged he struggled with the minimal amount of playing time.
“I think the hardest part for me was being a local kid when I had a lot of success in high school and having it not come easy, but having it come sooner,” he said. “And the learning curve was not as great in high school. I felt like I was almost letting people down by not playing.”
Tillman pointed out Dubick was stuck behind attackmen such as Matt Rambo, Colin Heacock and Dylan Maltz in his first two years and then Bernhardt, Wisnauskas and a combination of Colin Giblin and Will Snider last season. But Tillman said he empathized with Dubick.
“Any guy is going to want to play, and I think it’s hard when you’re not playing as much as you would like,” he said. “We look for different roles for guys and places to put them in. We have a place here where we have a lot of talented players. So being patient is not easy for competitive athletes, and we don’t want them to be happy with not playing.
“But it’s that sweet spot of, ‘I want to play, but I’m not, but I’m not going to make it about me,’ and I think that was one of Lou’s greatest strengths. He never makes it about him. It’s always about the team.”
Another link tying Dubick to the Terps is a family legacy in which his grandfather, Harry, and father, Marc, had played lacrosse in College Park. Harry’s name is on his grandson’s locker, and the youngest Dubick wears the same No. 32 his father wore.
“This place is a special place,” Dubick said. “So [walking away] wasn’t ever in my mind really. I don’t like to consider myself as somebody who quits or gives up on things. So I just wanted to stick with it and be patient and try to enjoy every moment and try not to take myself too seriously.”
Dubick is not the playmaker Bernhardt is or the sniper Wisnauskas is, but he is the off-ball dodger Maryland needs.
“I think he’s just really accepted what he’s doing,” Bernhardt said. “I think in high school, he had the ball in his stick a lot, but on the field, he’s a great leader. I think we’ve seen that throughout these years. Coming into his senior year, he’s taken guys under his wing, and now you’re seeing that on the field.”
Dubick was fortunate enough to be a member of the 2017 squad that captured the NCAA championship. But he also remembers the tears shed by midfielder Connor Kelly and defenseman Bryce Young when last year’s team lost to Duke in the national semifinals. So this season — his last — resonates deeply.
“It’s been special,” he said. “I’m just thankful for the opportunity, and I’m playing every day like it’s my last.”
NCAA men’s lacrosse quarterfinals
Maryland vs. No. 3 seed Virginia