Goalie Dan Morris may be key to Terps' postseason run

University of Maryland goalie Dan Morris stayed when most of his college contemporaries would have transferred.

During the past three seasons in College Park, Morris played behind All-American goalies Niko Amato and Kyle Bernlohr. Most others would have looked for opportunities elsewhere.

But when the top-seeded Terps host Bryant on Sunday in a first-round NCAA Division I lacrosse game, Morris will be Maryland's starting goalie and the key to the Terps' postseason run.

"He is getting better and we're about to find out how much he has improved," said former Maryland coach Dave Cottle, now a consultant with the Chesapeake Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse. "Maryland and Ohio State have the best two teams in the country, so it comes down to the two goalies. Ohio State has a solid goalie and if Morris plays well, he will get them where they want to go."

Morris shakes off those comments and says it is a team game. In reality, he is the X-factor as far as Maryland's playoff aspirations, but his philosophy has served him well.

In college and high school sports, kids rarely talk about commitment. To them, it's just a word and feared like some type of contagious disease.

Morris could have easily walked away and played at another school. In a lot of cases, he probably would have started. But instead, he stayed at Maryland.

That speaks volumes about his character.

"That did cross my mind," Morris said about possibly transferring. "But I was raised with the belief that if you commit and start something, you have to finish it out."

There were some painful lessons. Amato, one of the best goalies in Maryland history, left after the 2014 season, giving Morris and Bernlohr a chance to compete for the starting job, which Bernlohr eventually won.

But instead of sulking, Morris got better.

"I have a great appreciation for Niko and Kyle," said Morris. "I learned a lot from both. With Niko, he had a big presence about him. He played with a lot of confidence in himself and that rubbed off on other players.

"Kyle just put in a ton of work as far as practices, preparation, effort and getting ready for games," said Morris. "It was frustrating to lose out to Kyle, but I decided to work harder to make him and myself better. So when my time would come, I would be prepared."

His time is now. Morris started the season slowly but seems to have found a groove. If he is going to struggle, it is usually early in games. But in the recent Big Ten Tournament, he played well throughout against Penn State and Ohio State.

He has a .549 save percentage and an 8.85 goals against average. Morris has exceptionally quick hands and his outlet passes as far as fast breaks have added another dimension to Maryland's offense.

"I think his play has been a little bit like the stock market," said ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra of the 6-1, 208-pound Morris. "He has dips, but overall the growth outweighs the dips. I'm impressed with the kid's ability to rebound. I watched the game against Rutgers earlier in the season, and he had a rough first half, and in the second half, he was awesome. So that tells me a lot about his mental capabilities of rebounding.

"That doesn't often happen where a goalie has a really shaky start because a lot of times, they can tank and they're done for the day," he said. "He's shown resiliency in terms of rebounding and getting through some tough spots. I also saw him play a complete game against Notre Dame where he was awesome. The team lost, but he was the best player for Maryland that day. So there have been some high moments, and there have been some low moments with Dan Morris."

According to Morris, his early-season struggles were related to not having started a game since high school, and that makes sense.

Maryland also has a history of playing great defense, and this year is no different with a group that includes close defensemen Curtis Corley, Tim Muller, Mac Pons and Bryce Young; long-stick middie Matt Neufeldt; and short-stick midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen. Of that bunch, Morris might be the weakness because the rest are so strong and dominant.

"I think playing in the Big Ten and winning that conference championship and the surrounding pieces, I don't think he needs to be great for Maryland to win a national title," said Carcaterra. "I think they're good enough where if he's just solid, they can win a national title because they're good in a lot of different categories."

Morris agrees.

"It's a team game, and we've been treating it that way all year," said Morris. "It's not one person, but all 11 playing hard for 60 minutes out on the field. That's the way it has always worked for us."

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