In his final year of NCAA lacrosse eligibility, Ryan Conrad has already set career highs in categories such as goals (28), assists (18) and points (46). But the one statistical department that the senior midfielder prizes the most is the 83 ground balls he has collected, which rank second among his teammates for No. 3 seed Virginia (15-3).
“It’s something that I cherish, and it’s something that I really take to heart because coach [Lars Tiffany] tells us that he doesn’t want us to be selfish anywhere except for ground balls,” Conrad said Tuesday. “I used to face off, and now that I’m taking wings, you can just have an impact on the game by getting those ground balls. So being able to have that kind of impact is pretty incredible.”
The Timonium resident and Loyola Blakefield graduate is the only player in Division I with at least 11 points and 70 ground balls, according to the Cavaliers.
He has raised his game in the tournament, leading the team in goals with nine and scoring 5.0 points per game in the postseason after averaging 2.3 points in the first 16 games.
Conrad, who was named Thursday a first-team All-American, is quick to deflect credit to his teammates and coaches, but Duke coach John Danowski, whose No. 2 Blue Devils (13-4) will meet Virginia in Saturday’s first semifinal at noon at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, called Conrad “a dynamite player.”
“He’s terrific off the faceoff,” Danowski said. “He picks up a lot of ground balls one-handed with his right hand, and he uses his body to shield the defender, which is a great technique and a difficult one to defend. And then as soon as he picks it up, you have to understand that he’s very capable of igniting their offense. So whether it’s assists or second assists, the Virginia kids are on a mission, and they want to win like everybody else, but he’s obviously one of their key players.”
Conrad said he still vividly remembers the Cavaliers’ 9-7 win against Maryland for the 2011 national championship. That Virginia is in position to grab its sixth NCAA title is tantalizing to Conrad and his teammates.
“I think it’s definitely something that we’ve all dreamed about in our lives, and it’s something that we’ve been talking about since the fall,” he said. “… To see that it actually has been paying off and that we have an opportunity to make it to the highest level that we possibly can is so incredible.”
UNC’s Klages contributing
Attackers Jamie Ortega and Katie Hoeg headline a potent offense for the No. 3 seed North Carolina women, but that does not diminish the value of senior midfielder Kara Klages.
The Bel Air resident and John Carroll graduate ranks fifth among the Tar Heels (17-3) in points with 31. But she has made her biggest impact between the offensive and defensive sides of the field, leading the team in caused turnovers with 17 and ranking fourth in draw controls with 29.
“With the graduation of Marie McCool this past year, Kara’s had to step up into a bigger role for us,” said UNC coach Jenny Levy, a Roland Park graduate. “She obviously has the speed, but our team really started to get better in the middle part of the season when her play started to go up and she developed more of a presence for us and more of a leader for us. She’s someone who physically is very reliable. She’s got that God’s gift to where she can run a million miles, recover, and then go again the next day, and that’s been very valuable to us this year.”
While the Salisbury men were denied in Sunday’s 16-13 loss to Cabrini an opportunity to capture their 13th Division III title, the Sea Gulls women are two wins away from collecting their fourth championship.
Salisbury (19-3) will meet Tufts (19-2) in a semifinal Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Ashland, Va., for the right to face the winner of the other semifinal between Middlebury (20-1) and Wesleyan (17-3). The Sea Gulls are seeking their first crown since 2014, and coach Jim Nestor said the women are trying to replicate the men’s success.
“We want to have the same reputation as the men,” he said recently. “We’re striving to be one of the best teams in the country, and we’re doing that with the quality of our recruiting and doing things right here. Our men have had so much success over the past years, and we’ve been trying to follow suit.”
The Division II men’s final will feature reigning national champion Merrimack (16-3) from Massachusetts and Limestone (20-0) from South Carolina, but there will be a little Maryland flavor in the form of Saints coach J.B. Clarke.
Clarke helmed the Washington College men from 1999 to 2010, guiding the Shoremen to seven postseason berths and one Centennial Conference title. Under his supervision, Limestone has won national crowns in 2014, 2015 and 2017 and made it to the title game in 2012 and 2016.
“We had a good run at Washington College,” Clarke said. “We won a lot of lacrosse games. I had some awesome players, and one of the neat things this week and in the past even in other championship weekends is I’ve been hearing from those guys. So it’s been neat to connect with those guys during this week.”
Controlling the draw
The No. 4 seed Northwestern women’s chances of pulling off a repeat upset of top-seeded Maryland might rest on the performance of sophomore midfielder Brennan Dwyer, who ranks fifth in Division I in faceoff controls at 8.6 per game.
In the Wildcats’ 17-13 loss to the Terps on April 11, Dwyer finished with 11 draw controls, but Northwestern had a slim 17-15 lead in that department. In a 16-11 win in the Big Ten tournament final May 5, Dwyer had nine draw controls en route to the Wildcats enjoying a 19-10 advantage.
“Brennan learned some lessons,” said coach Kelly Amonte Hiller, a Maryland graduate. “Our circle girls were better, I thought. Their circle girls are tremendous, too. We know it’s going to be a battle for every single draw, and we know how important that is. So we have to make sure that we give our best effort and that’s kind of the mentality that we went into it with, and we had some great success in the first half and some solid success in the second half.”
» Senior attackman Pat Spencer (Boys’ Latin) became the first Loyola Maryland player to be named by the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association as its Lt. Raymond J. Enners Outstanding Player of the Year. Spencer, who is also the school’s and Patriot League’s first four-time All-American, is one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, which recognizes the top collegiate player. Towson senior short-stick defensive midfielder Zach Goodrich was recognized as the Lt. J.G. Donald MacLaughlin Jr. recipient as the nation’s outstanding midfielder. Spencer and Goodrich were joined on the All-American first team by Maryland junior attackman Jared Bernhardt, Conrad, Notre Dame junior midfielder Bryan Costabile (Mount Saint Joseph), Greyhounds senior goalkeeper Jacob Stover (McDonogh) and Army West Point senior defenseman Johnny Surdick (Odenton resident).
The second team included Black Knights senior goalie AJ Barretto (St. Paul’s), Lehigh senior defenseman Craig Chick (South River), Johns Hopkins senior defenseman Patrick Foley, Loyola Maryland freshman midfielder Chase Scanlan, High Point senior goalkeeper Tim Troutner Jr. (St. Mary’s) and Tigers senior faceoff specialist Alex Woodall (St. Mary’s).
The third team included Terps senior defenseman Curtis Corley and sophomore midfielder Bubba Fairman, Syracuse sophomore midfielder Brendan Curry (Calvert Hall), Blue Jays freshman attackman Joey Epstein, Yale junior attackman Jackson Morrill (McDonogh) and Towson sophomore defenseman Koby Smith.
Earning honorable mention status were Georgetown junior attackman Jake Carraway (St. Mary’s), Maryland sophomore midfielder Anthony DeMaio and redshirt sophomore attackman Logan Wisnauskas (Boys’ Latin), Denver senior defenseman Dylan Gaines (Boys’ Latin), North Carolina senior attackman Timmy Kelly (Calvert Hall), Greyhounds sophomore attackman Kevin Lindley and junior long-stick midfielder Ryan McNulty and Tigers senior attackman Brendan Sunday.
» The Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) released its Division I All-Region teams, and Maryland placed four players on the South Region first team. They are senior defender Julia Braig (St. Paul’s), senior midfielder Jen Giles (Mount Hebron), junior attacker Kali Hartshorn and senior goalkeeper Megan Taylor (Glenelg). Joining them on the first team was Navy junior attacker Kelly Larkin. The second team included three Terps in junior defender Lizzie Colson (Manchester Valley), graduate student midfielder Erica Evans and senior attacker Caroline Steele (Severn).
» Loyola Maryland was represented on the Mid-Atlantic Region first team by senior defender Lindsey Ehrhardt, senior attacker Hannah Powers, sophomore attacker Livy Rosenzweig and senior midfielder Taylor VanThof. They were joined by Towson junior defender Sami Chenoweth (Manchester Valley) and Johns Hopkins junior attacker Maggie Schneidereith (Towson). The second team included a trio of Greyhounds in sophomore midfielder Sam Fiedler (Garrison Forest), senior goalie Kady Glynn and senior defender Kristen Yanchoris (Century), a threesome of Blue Jays in sophomore midfielder Shelby Harrison (St. Mary’s), sophomore defender Jeanne Kachris and redshirt senior midfielder Ellie McNulty (Broadneck), and a pair of Tigers in junior defender Olivia Conti and senior attacker Natalie Sulmonte.
» The IWLCA’s Division III Chesapeake Region first team was populated by Salisbury senior defender Martha Hutzell (Centennial) and sophomore attacker Alexis Strobel (Bel Air). The second team included four Sea Gulls in junior defender Kendall Bannan (St. Mary’s), junior goalkeeper Skye Graham (C. Milton Wright), senior attacker Gabby Mongno and senior attacker Lindsey Wagner (Loch Raven) and St. Mary’s senior attacker Caitlin Katchmar (Hereford).