Welcome back to the fourth year of the Maryland Men's Lacrosse Blog!
We're less than a week away from the start of spring practice and there is a level of excitement in the air for the upcoming season from the coaches to the players to the support staff.
The big story, one that will be written throughout the entire season, is the change at the top for the Terps' men's lacrosse program. John Tillman takes over and it will be exciting and interesting to see what exactly that means for Maryland on the field this season. I wouldn't expect drastic, radical, wholesale changes given that the Terps return nine starters from a team that went 12-4 last season. The biggest changes will most likely occur from Sunday to Friday, things that aren't usually or easily noticed.
This is being posted on Jan. 11 and the national champion will not be crowned until May 30, so everyone needs to recognize that this is just the beginning of a very long season that will have its ups, downs, twists and turns. No one knows what's going to happen between now and Memorial Day, so sit back with the beverage and snack of your choosing and enjoy the journey.
Inside Lacrosse is running through its preseason previews and the Terps aren't on the docket until Friday, Feb. 11. By that time Maryland will have two scrimmages under its belt and a lot of questions that are swirling around now will be answered by then. If you're curious, the Terps are No. 6 in this year's preseason rankings (they were No. 8 last season and No. 3 in 2009).
While this year's team returns a plethora of players that Terp fans and lacrosse fans have come to know very well over the past couple of years, Maryland will also feature some new faces that will need to play key roles if the Terps are going to play in M&T Bank Stadium on the last weekend in May. Here's a quick look at some of those guys by position:
Attack: The three starters (Catalino, Reed & Young) are well known at this point and with good reason (that trio has combined for 351 points on 191 goals and 160 assists). The depth at attack took a bit of a hit when Will Yeatman decided not to pursue a fifth-year of lacrosse in favor of preparing for a future in the NFL. But that doesn't mean the cupboard is bare beyond the starting trio. Fran Gromely is back for his super-senior season and will provide a lot of experience, but fans should keep an eye on freshmen Brendan Saylor and Sean McGuire. Saylor opened some eyes in the fall with his quickness and showed flashes of brilliance at times. McGuire missed much of the fall due to injury, but he's healthy now and he is expected to provide some scoring punch off the bench.
Offensive Midfield: Maryland returns a lot of experienced midfielders, including three that had double-digit goals last season. By now fans know what to expect from Eric Boyle, Dan Burns, Drew Snider, Warren Hansen, Jake Bernhardt, Joe Cummings, Michael Shakespeare and Owen Blye. And while it will be interesting to see the improvement John Haus makes this season, the Terp that could hold the key to success in the midfield could be freshman Rustin Bryant. A natural attackman, Bryant made a seamless switch to midfield in the fall. Its tough to make an impact in the midfield as a freshman, but if Maryland can ease Bryant into the mix he could provide an offensive punch.
Defensive Midfield: Scott LaRue returns as the team's top regular short-stick (Burns and Bernhardt are also available if needed), but the big question is who will be his running mate. The answer could be sophomore Landon Carr if the athletically-gifted West Coaster can polish his game a bit.
Long Pole: There are no questions about the Terps' top two poles. Senior Brian Farrell and sophomore Jesse Bernhardt are not only reliable on the defensive end of the field; they are also offensive threats in transition. The dark horse in the mix could be junior David Miller, who is in the running to be the team's third long pole. If Miller, an offensive middie who played some long pole as a freshman, can make the transition he could give the Terps another transition threat.
Close Defense: The senior trio of Schmidt, Schmidt and Bohlander (which sounds more like a law firm) is entrenched as the starters. Redshirt sophomore Grant Oliver isn't a new face, but after missing all of 2010 due to injury he will be looking to reintroduce himself to Maryland fans this season. He is expected to compete for the fourth spot this year and then possibly take over in a leadership role on defense next season.
Goalie: Whoever steps between the pipes vs. Detroit Mercy on Feb. 19 will be a new face. Four-year starter Brian Phipps graduated in May leaving junior Mark White and freshman Niko Amato to battle it out for the starting spot. The two offer a complete contrast in styles, but both are effective shot stoppers. If all things are equal between the pipes the choice could come down to which one is more consistent in the clearing game.
Some social media housekeeping:
• If you haven't "liked" the Maryland Men's Lacrosse Facebook page, click here and do so now and you'll get all of the latest news and info on your Facebook page.
• Maryland Men's Lacrosse is also on Twitter. Click here to follow.
• The Maryland Men's Lacrosse YouTube page will not be updated this year. The Terrapin athletic department launched its official YouTube channel last fall and all videos for the 2011 season will be posted there. Click here to check it out and subscribe.
That wraps up the first blog for 2011. Check back next week for an update on the first official practice and all season long to keep up-to-date on the latest Maryland men's lacrosse news.