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With eagle-eyed Max Maxwell, UMBC men's lacrosse players are always open

With eagle-eyed Max Maxwell, UMBC men's lacrosse players are always open
UMBC senior lacrosse attackman Max Maxwell practices under new head coach Ryan Moran. (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore Sun)

In the second quarter of the UMBC men's lacrosse team's 15-4 victory over Mercer on Saturday, sophomore attackman Jack Andrews ran off a pick to the wing and found the ball in his stick. The ball's appearance was not the product of a wing and a prayer, but an accurate and well-timed pass from senior attackman Max Maxwell.

"I wasn't really expecting him to thread one, but it came right to my stick, and I was able to shoot and score," said Andrews, an Arnold resident and St. Mary's graduate who added two goals and one assist in that game. "He's got great vision. He'll see through a defense and get skip passes through. So you've always got to be ready when you're playing with him and keep an eye on him when he has the ball because you never know when he's just going to pass it to you."

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Feeding his teammates has been Maxwell's forte. His six-assist display in that victory against the Bears gave him 74 for his career and moved him past former attackman Brendan Mundorf into ninth place on the program's all-time assists list. He might pass former attackman Joe Baldini (76 assists) for eighth when the Retrievers (1-3) welcome No. 13 Towson (2-1) to UMBC Stadium in Catonsville on Saturday at noon.

Maxwell is not shy about acknowledging how meaningful it is to be part of an elite group of players, but he also is quick to credit teammates who converted his passes into goals.

"I wouldn't be in the position to be within the top 10 for assists if it wasn't for my teammates," he said. "I've played with a lot of great players throughout the years that have scored a lot of goals. So it really just shows what they've been able to do for our school."

Maxwell's success is not startling. He was a two-time All American with more than 100 goals and 80 assists in his final two seasons at Hamburg High in Hamburg, N.Y.

But at Hamburg, Maxwell played in the midfield. When he arrived at UMBC in 2013, former coach Don Zimmerman asked him to switch to attack.

"Coming in as a freshman, I was under the whole mindset that whatever it takes to get me on the field, I'll do," Maxwell said of the change. "So when I found out that I was moving to attack, I wasn't exactly upset about it because I knew there was an opportunity and to play alongside guys like Matt Gregoire and Nate [Lewnes] was something I could thrive in. Playing off guys as good as they were on crease was only going to make me better."

Last season was Maxwell's best. He had career highs in assists (30) and points (45) and reached 100 points in just 41 games, tying for the ninth-fastest pace.

Opponents taken note, assigning their top defenseman to him. This season, senior Austin Pifani of No. 7 and reigning NCAA Division I champion North Carolina, senior Nick Fields of No. 3 Johns Hopkins, and senior Ryan Dennis of No. 12 Richmond have marked Maxwell, which is par for the course, according to coach Ryan Moran.

"We saw the film from last year, and he always got the other team's No. 1," Moran said. "Lewnes, for as much attention he got as a goal scorer, and it was definitely well-earned, he wasn't the guy that was distributing and attacking from below the goal line. He was a shooter. So you had to keep him in front of the goal line. So even last year, Max was getting teams' No. 1."

Maxwell said he enjoys the challenge of facing an opponent's best defender. His biggest concern this spring is learning Moran's offensive system after spending the past three years in Zimmerman's and setting an example for an offense that usually starts two freshmen and two sophomores.

"I feel like there are some expectations, and I would say that a majority of them are definitely fair," he said. "Being the oldest guy, you're expected to be the leader. But I've been taking more time to learn the offense inside and out so that if there's anything that happens with any position and somebody might be confused, I want to be able to reach out to him and try to help him the best I can."

Andrews said Maxwell is an on-field coach who counsels teammates without letting the responsibility burden him.

"I think he does a great job with that pressure," Andrews said. "He takes it into his hands. Coach Moran is a great coach, and he's given us a lot to work with, and I think Max being the senior on the offensive end, he's done a really good job with trying to teach us the correct way to do stuff."

Maxwell leads the Retrievers in goals (seven) and assists (eight) and is on pace to get to 48 points, which would be another career high. But Maxwell said the goal is to return to the America East Conference tournament for the first time since 2014 for a shot at the NCAA postseason.

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"That's a team goal, and that's definitely my personal goal, to get back there," he said. "Dropping off these past two years has been tough, and it would mean a lot to me to be able to accomplish that in my last year."

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