And so it begins - the annual four-week stretch (which is actually five weeks this year thanks to the ACC tournament not moving with the NCAA tournament) that can define Maryland's season.
But before we look ahead, lets look back on last week's game vs. UMBC and get into some news and notes.
It was never a "revenge" game, but there was something more to the win for the Terps following their 13-7 victory at UMBC last Saturday. After defeating Towson and Penn in close contests on March 13 and 15, respectively, Maryland put its foot on the gas and never let up against the Retrievers.
The catalyst for Maryland was, as he has been in nearly every game, was Grant Catalino. The junior from Webster, N.Y., continued his ascension in the Maryland record book with a seven-point outing on four goals, including the game-winner, and three assists. His fellow starting attackmen were equally impressive with Travis Reed chipping in two goals and two assists and Ryan Young adding three helpers.
Another good thing to come out of the UMBC game was the play of the first midfield line. The line of Jake Bernhart, Adam Sear and Will Yeatman combined for two points on a goal and one assist in the Towson and Penn games. But it was a different story vs. the Retrievers as Bernhardt and Sear each scored a pair of goals, while Yeatman added one. Maryland is a very formidable team when this unit is playing up to its potential.
One more bright spot was the play of senior goalie Brian Phipps. The Annapolis, Md., native made 13 saves combined vs. the Tigers and Quakers, but he was terrific at UMBC, making nine stops in the first half and 12 overall in 57:00. Saves are not only important for keeping goals off the scoreboard, but for Maryland they also lead to transition opportunities on the offensive end.
While the efforts of Catalino and Phipps made headlines, none of their plays drew a bigger cheer from the sidelines than Michael Shakespeare's goal in the second quarter. While his teammates were happy for Shakey, the cheer went up for Fran Gormley, who picked up the assist on the goal. Gormley was a member of the 2007 team, but he left the team in 2008 and 2009 to just be a student at Maryland. This past fall he dropped by Coach Cottle's office in Comcast Center to see about returning to the team. Gormley was told he could tryout, but that a spot wasn't guaranteed. He made the team via the tryout and has been a tremendous addition in the locker room and the practice field.
I'd be remiss in not mentioning that two Terps made their collegiate debuts vs. the Retrievers: defenders Mike Scheeler and Alex Slafkosky.
News & Notes
• Last week I made a note in the blog that there were seven undefeated teams in the country and three of those were ACC squads. Fast forward to this week and now there are only four undefeated teams left (Princeton, Robert Morris and Yale all fell from the ranks of the unbeaten) and three are ACC teams. That number is guaranteed to drop to three on Saturday with Maryland (6-0) playing at North Carolina (9-0).
• Of the four remaining undefeated teams the only true surprise is Lafayette. The Leopards are 6-0 and could end the year as the only unbeaten team in the country. One of Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia could do it too, but they all play each other at least once (not to mention games vs. the likes of Johns Hopkins, Navy, Ohio State and Duke to name a few). Lafayette only has one game left on its schedule vs. a ranked opponent and that's a home game this Saturday vs. No. 14 Drexel.
• Maryland fans know how good Catalino has been so far this season, but most don't know he's been this good. His 29 points through six games is the most by any player since 2002. He is ahead of the pace set by Joe Walters (27 points through six games) in 2004 when he totaled 68 points on the season, which is the seventh-best single season in Maryland history. Catalino currently leads the ACC in points per game at 4.83 (5th in the NCAA), is second in assists per game with 2.5 (5th in the NCAA) and ranks fifth in goals per game 2.33 (34th in the NCAA).
• Inside Lacrosse finally recognized Catalino's efforts last week by rating him the No. 2 player in its Player of Year rankings. The only player listed ahead of Catalino was UNC's Billy Bitter. It's way too early to call this a Tewaaraton Trophy showdown, but a big showing by either player could go a long way to that guy separating themselves from the rest of the pack.
• The season begins every year in February and there are some big games with Georgetown, Duke and two in-state rivals, but this four-week stretch is where the season really kicks into gear. Maryland fans can recite the next four opponents by heart - Carolina, Virginia, Navy, Hopkins. There have been a few mid-week games thrown in there from time to time, but those four games in a four-week stretch have been a staple of the Terps' schedule since 1978.
• Maryland has won 13 of the last 16 meetings with the Tar Heels and the last time the Terps lost to Carolina at Fetzer Field was 1996. But, as a former Terrapin football coach is fond of saying, "not so fast my friend." This is a very different Tar Heel team. Carolina is as talented as any team in the country, boasting four preseason All-America selections. Bitter was a Tewaaraton finalist last year and the Carolina defense is allowing just 6.13 goals per game, which is No. 1 in the NCAA.
• So how does this heavyweight showdown breakdown? The full "Tale of the Tape" will be in Thursday's game notes, but here are the game averages by starting unit for each team:
Carolina (Bitter, Wood, Petracca): 5.0 goals, 4.1 assists
Maryland (Catalino, Young, Reed): 4.5 goals, 5.7 assists
Carolina (DeLaney, DiPietro, Dunster): 4.1 goals, 3.0 assists
Maryland (Bernhardt, Yeatman, Sear): 3.2 goals, 0.7 assists
Carolina (Flanagan, Jarvis, McComas): 8.1 groundballs, 5.1 caused turnovers
Maryland (Bohlander, B. Schmidt, M. Schmidt): 6.2 groundballs, 2.5 caused turnovers
• This will be the first time since 2002 that UNC enters the game with an unblemished record, while Maryland comes into this game undefeated for the first time since 2004. The last time the two teams were both undefeated coming into this game was 24 years ago in 1986. Both Maryland and North Carolina were 5-0. The Terps went down to Chapel Hill and defeated the Tar Heels 10-9. However, it was Carolina that had the last laugh that season by topping Maryland, 12-10, in Byrd Stadium in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament en route to its second NCAA title.
• The team will be heading down "Tobacco Road" (had to get it in for student trainer Billy Langenstein) Friday morning following a short practice. I'm not sure about movie choices for the trip down, but one of the highlights will be a stop at a Cracker Barrel on the way. We will see if Coach Moran has become a "genius" since the Bellarmine trip.
That's it for this week. Coach Cottle's Comments will be back this week and we'll have three-games worth of Weekly Award Winners to catch up on. Game notes will be posted on Thursday, but as of right now we're not sure about UMBC highlights because we're still awaiting the footage from WMAR.