Sunday’s entry is the final installment of a week-long series taking a look at each of the seven Division I programs in this state according to their order of finish from last season. The Sun’s lacrosse preview is slated to be published on Thursday, Feb. 17. Today is Maryland’s turn.
Overview: The Terps enjoyed one of their finest regular seasons, winning 11 of 14 games and beating eventual national champion Duke, North Carolina, Johns Hopkins and Navy. But the team ended up being a footnote in Notre Dame’s historic run to the NCAA Tournament championship game, and the quarterfinal loss cost Dave Cottle his job as head coach. John Tillman, who left Harvard for College Park, brings enthusiasm and discipline to the program, but can he renew a program that hasn’t won a national title since 1975, been to the championship final since 1998, or advanced to the Final Four since 2006?
Reason for optimism: Maryland returns a wealth of experience and much of it comes from the senior class. Six of the 15 seniors on the roster are starters, including the entire attack and the entire defense. Add long-stick midfielder Brian Farrell and short-stick defensive midfielder Dan Burns, and the team can rely on players who have played in significant contests. Attackman Grant Catalino, one of those seniors, said he and his classmates are fully aware that this is the last time their window of opportunity is open. “This is our last shot,” he said. “There’s no next year, there’s no next season. So we’re doing everything we can – making sacrifices, putting in extra time, extra film, extra shooting, whatever it is – to be the best we can be this year because there is no next year.”
Reason for pessimism: The return of seniors Brett Schmidt, Max Schmidt (no relation to Brett) and Ryder Bohlander solidifies a stingy defense, but they must help out an inexperienced goalkeeper in either junior Mark White or redshirt freshman Niko Amato. Tillman said White and Amato present contrasting styles in the net. “Niko is a little bigger, a little wider,” Tillman said. “Mark is a little bit wiry, and he’s a little bit more animated in the goal whereas Niko is a little bit more efficient with his movement. He doesn’t stray too far from the goal whereas Mark will go out and run around all over the place. … I think both of them do a very good job, but just in different ways. I feel comfortable with either guy right now.”
Keep an eye on: The Terps will sorely miss the presence of Bryn Holmes, who won 54.2 percent of face-offs last spring and embodied the team’s tough, blue-collar work ethic. The leading candidate to replace Holmes is his younger brother Curtis, a sophomore, with players like juniors Jake Bernhardt and Michael Shakespeare, Burns and Bohlander having face-off experience. “I think this is a wonderful opportunity for him to step up and grab that position,” Tillman said of Curtis Holmes. “And we’re hopeful that happens this spring. He’s the lead guy right now, but we do have some other options, and I think you need to. With different face-off styles, sometimes match-ups become really important.”
What he said: Players have remarked about the increased emphasis on details in practice and in the film room, and Tillman reached out to players to get a sense of their thoughts on the direction of the program. But Tillman tried to downplay the notion that he has altered a lot from when Cottle was the coach. “I don’t know,” Tillman said. “I didn’t look and go, ‘Well, he did this, and I’m going to do this.’ I just felt it was important to do the things that we thought were important and do things that we felt we want to do.”