Maryland feeling better after win vs. Virginia
Maryland coach John Tillman is conceding what he couldn’t say last week: Saturday’s 12-7 victory over No. 7 Virginia was quite significant.
“Knowing that we were 0-2 in the [Atlantic Coast Conference], that became an even more important league game just so we could win one,” Tillman said Wednesday. “I think it was important for us to try and play our best game of the year, and I thought it was a little bit of character game for us because everybody was so critical of us after the loss [to North Carolina on March 26]. Listen, we gave plenty of ammo, but we just wanted to get back to playing more like Maryland and play tough, play hard, and play together. I felt like we got closer to doing that.”
The atmosphere has changed considerably around the team’s practice facility, too.
“I think their body language is certainly better,” Tillman said. “I think having some success can give you confidence, and we want our kids to always be confident. But we also want our kids to recognize who we are and how we have to play. … Instead of getting into a lull, we had our hardest practice of the season on Monday to remind the guys that it’s time to move on. We know what we’re dealing with Friday night. It’s going to be a really, really tough and hostile environment, and our guys have to be ready for it.”
Tillman was referring to the No. 6 Terps’ visit to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Friday night to tangle with host Navy (4-6). Maryland’s bid to improve to 8-2 could be strengthened by extended playing time for senior attackman Travis Reed, who played sparingly against the Cavaliers after missing the three previous contests with a left shoulder injury.
“I would think that we’d try to get him in there a little bit more,” Tillman said. “He wanted to come back, but we weren’t going to rush him and put him in a vulnerable position. He was ready to roll, and the doctor said it wouldn’t hurt him. We tried to put him in spots and use his skillset. So it was nice just to see him out there. He’s a guy who is a leader for us, a guy who brings a lot of energy to the table. So his enthusiasm and passion go a long way for us.”
Tillman will return to Annapolis for his first regular-season contest since leaving Navy for the head coaching gig at Harvard after the 2007 season. Tillman chuckled when asked if he anticipated any applause from Midshipmen supporters who remembered his tenure at the academy.
“I don’t know. That’s a good question,” he said. “Listen, I’m on the other sideline, so I get it. People are very passionate. I know I gave everything I possibly could to that place for 12 years, and it wasn’t always perfect, but I know that I did it with a lot of energy and passion. And I know that as much as I gave, I got back that and more from the people I met and that place. So I was the big winner there.”