The Blog was off last week with the Tuesday game, so there's a lot to get to this week. We'll rewind the Marist, UMBC and Duke games with an interesting look at two other midweek night games from the past eight seasons. Several Terps had some firsts during the past three games and there's also a past-meets-present moment captured for all to see. But first we're going to preview this Saturday's big top 10 matchup with Villanova.
It's not often that I look forward first thing here in the blog, but this Saturday's game vs. Villanova is a big, big game and it shouldn't be overlooked.
The Wildcats are 4-1 as of this writing and are 10th in the latest poll. Villanova also plays a key game at home vs. No. 15 Princeton on Tuesday night.
This game has the potential to be a major factor for whichever school emerges with a victory come NCAA tournament time.
Villanova has a potent, veteran offense, led by junior attackman Jack Rice, who has 14 goals already this season. He's paired up with another junior attackman, Will Casertano, who leads the team with 19 points on eight goals and 11 assists. The third attackman is senior Kevin Cunningham, who has 15 points on nine goals and six assists.
Defensively, the Wildcats are giving up nearly 10 goals per game, but have some tremendously talented athletes. Senior John LoCascio leads the team with 27 groundballs, while fellow senior Chris Creighton has caused 11 turnovers with 13 groundballs in 2012.
Villanova isn't considered a rising program anymore; it is a program that has arrived and can play with anyone. The Wildcats earned their second bid to the NCAA tournament last season, but were shipped out west to play at Denver. The Pioneers would go on to win and eventually made their first-ever trip to the Final Four, but Villanova gave them everything they could handle. The game was a back-and-forth struggle and was deadlocked at 10-10 going into the fourth quarter, but Denver was able to prevail with three unanswered goals in the final 15:00.
The game could also be big for the future of both programs as each recruits the other's backyard heavily.
Villanova has six players from Maryland on its roster, including Rice and starting goalie Dan Gutierrez. Maryland has five from Pennsylvania in its roster, but four - Niko Amato, Owen Blye, Kevin Forster and Goran Murray - are key contributors and the fifth, Casey Ikeda, looked like a potential starter before going down with an injury. All five Terps are from the greater Philadelphia area.
Talk about bouncing back. From the opening whistle when Curtis Holmes took the faceoff and found Joe Cummings on the left wing and he buried a shot inside the far pipe just six seconds into the game, there was no way the Terps were going to let this one even be close.
Cummings had a natural hat trick in the game's first four minutes to put the Terps up 3-0. The lead would eventually grow to 11-0 late in the second quarter before the Red Foxes finally got on the board.
There were some good performances for the Terps in this one and one player just simply put on a show, but we'll get to him in a bit.
First, Niko Amato bounced back from what can only be called a subpar effort at UMBC with a 13-save performance vs. Marist. He made eight saves in the first half and another five in the fourth quarter before giving way to Thomas Guarino with just over seven minutes left.
Owen Blye, who has battled through some nagging little injuries, had his best game of the season so far with three assists. Drew Snider was also solid offensively with two goals.
Arguably the best player on the field on Saturday was Jesse Bernhardt. Mr. Do Everything for the Terps was everywhere from scooping up tough groundballs to breaking out in transition. It was his ability to breakout that led to two Maryland goals, but those goals wouldn't have been possible without some terrific stick skills and some even better decision-making. Twice Bernhardt took long outlet passes from Amato and pushed the ball in transition. Twice he could have taken a shot and twice he was in danger of being trail-checked if he tried to wind up for the big shot. But, twice he made the correct decision and moved the ball. The first ended up with a near identical goal to Cummings' first - a shot from the left wing inside the far post. The second he found Jay Carlson on the crease and the inside specialist converted in traffic to make it a 4-0 Maryland lead. Not every great play is made physically. On Saturday Bernhardt, as he's done in the past, showed he also excels at the mental side of the game.
Michael Shakespeare scored twice and both were pretty spectacular in their own right. The second goal was a long bounce shot from the left side that seems to be a Shakespeare specialty, but his first goal was even more special. I don't think anyone was expecting it. The clock was winding down in the first quarter and Shakespeare had the ball just approaching the restraining line. Five ... four ... three ... two - shot! Goal! With 0:01 left on the clock Shakespeare, who has one of the hardest shots on the team, ripped it from a yard beyond the line. The shot bounced off of the Marist goalie's chest and deflected into the goal. It's the type of goal people would be taking about if not for the performance put up by Carlson later in the game.
The freshman simply put on a show.
I already mentioned Carlson's first goal, which was fairly pedestrian compared with the other three. A feed to the crease, some pump fakes to get the goalie moving and finish for the goal - ho hum. His fourth goal was somewhat similar, just with less pump fakes and a lot more traffic on the crease. It's still a highlight-reel goal, but on this day is still just his third-best goal of the game.
Carlson's second goal would have been SportsCenter Top 10 worthy had the game been carried on any of the ESPN networks. Cummings had the ball behind the cage on the right side. Carlson made a good, hard cut to get free and Cummings laced a pass to the sure-handed Carlson. The only problem was that Carlson's momentum gave him no angle to shoot. Not a problem for Carlson, as he, in one motion, caught the ball, brought his stick behind his right ear and got off a picture-perfect behind-the-back shot for the goal. Not bad, but still not his best goal of the game.
That distinction belongs to his third goal, which came with just under 30 seconds left in the third. An errant pass from across the field was drifting out of the box going toward the Marist bench. Carlson took off after the loose ball, as did a Marist defender and the Red Foxes' goalie, which left the goal open. That didn't seem to pose too much of a problem considering where the ball was, how little of an angle there was and the fact that it was a 2-on-1 for Marist in going for the ball. Carlson got there first and scoped up the ball, but was pushed from behind with possession, which drew the flag from the official. While he was going to the ground, Carlson flipped the ball back into the box, trying to simply give the Terps a chance to maintain possession with the flag down. It didn't quite work out like that as the ball took one bounce and hit the far upper corner of the goal before bouncing back inside the net for the goal. Hopefully the TerpsTV crew was able to get a decent look at that and you'll be able to see it for yourself in the highlights.
There isn't much anything pretty about this game, but I'll try to point out a few bright spots.
The biggest (and that's not saying much for this game) bright spot was the fact that Maryland held a three-goal lead going into the fourth quarter despite the fact that the Retrievers dominated possession.
But the three-goal margin might have been a key factor in the loss. Being down three goals allowed UMBC to stay with its game plan of slowing things down and shortening the game with long possessions. Had Maryland increased its lead to four and certainly five goals, the Retrievers would have had to pick up the pace a bit and that would have played into the Terps' hands.
Maryland had its chances to run and the Terps took those, but could never really convert. One play that is a microcosm of this is a sequence that saw Jesse Bernhardt get a strip and a groundball. He pushed the ball up the field to Joe Cummings on the left side. Cummings looked up and saw a wide-open Billy Gribbin on the right side of the crease, but Cummings' pass sailed past Gribbin's stick. What should have been an easy goal resulted in a turnover and another possession for UMBC.
The biggest thing about this game was the Terps' ability to put it behind them and move on and they did that in a big was vs. Marist. While the team was disappointed, they were more angry; angry to let a game slip away. Needless to say there were a lot of teachable moments during the UMBC game.
One more bright spot before we move off of this game and that was the play of John Haus. The All-American midfielder was solid all night long. He scored twice and added an assist and he didn't make a turnover. The play he made to pull the Terps to within a goal with 1:31 left was a terrific effort and watching that game I was sure he was the guy that was going to do something, whether it be score a goal or make the key pass, to send it to overtime. Unfortunately, he, and the Terps, didn't get the chance. It would have been interesting to see what he would have done with one more opportunity.
Midweek Nighttime Nightmares
Since I've been involved with the Maryland men's lacrosse program (which only goes back eight seasons to 2005) it seems that weeknight games have been a problematic to say the least. I have no idea why, but consider the fact that the Terps have only played three midweek night games since 2005 - and all of those turned out to be one-goal losses.
In 2005, Maryland headed to Boca Raton, Fla., for a spring break game with Dartmouth. The Big Green used a tedious, slow-down style to shorten the game, but Maryland still held a 5-4 lead early in the fourth quarter. But Dartmouth scored three goals over a span of more than 10 minutes to take a 7-5 lead. Maryland's Xander Ritz scored with 1:22 remaining to make it a one-goal game. The Terps had two final chances to tie the game but Dartmouth goalie Andrew Goldstein made two saves in the final 45 seconds to preserve the win.
In 2006, Maryland was coming off of a thrilling overtime win over then No. 1 Duke in Durham and were the newly crowned No. 1 when Bucknell came to the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex on the following Tuesday night. The game, which was played in bitter cold temperatures that were made even colder by a brisk, steady wind, saw the Bisons' come out strong, taking a 6-3 lead into the fourth quarter. The Terps didn't go down without a fight, as senior All-Americans Brendan Healy, Bill McGlone and Xander Ritz scored fourth quarter goals to send the game to overtime. The Terps got off five shots in the first overtime, but couldn't get one in. Bucknell took advantage of the opportunity in the second overtime, scoring with nine seconds left to take the 7-6 victory.
The differences in these two games and the loss at UMBC last week are pretty clear when looking at the stats. In the previous two games Maryland won more face-offs, got more groundballs and saves, while both were in favor of the opponent, were pretty even.
There are no excuses in any loss, but it seems fairly odd that Maryland is now 0-3 since 2005 in midweek night games. Coincidence?
This game seems like it was weeks and weeks ago not just a week removed from Saturday. Boy, what a difference a week makes. We'll get to that, but first, some tidbits about the game.
Maryland jumped out to a 4-0 lead and never looked back, but the 10-7 final may be a bit deceiving. The Terps looked amazing for the first three quarters, including building a six-goal lead midway through the third quarter. Drew Snider had a hat trick, including two man-up goals, and Billy Gribbin scored one and added two assists to pace Maryland.
But, the fourth quarter belonged to Niko Amato, who proved once again why he's one of the nation's top goalies. The sophomore made nine of his 14 saves in the fourth quarter, with at least three saves coming on point-blank shots.
The man-down unit was solid in protecting the lead late, because Duke had four extra-man opportunities and only managed to cash in with one goal. Those three man-down stops proved to be the difference in the game.
One look at the stat sheet won't tell you the importance of the play of Goran Murray. The freshman, who wears No. 44 because of similarities to former No. 44, two-time All-American Brett Schmidt, was tasked with guarding Duke's All-America attackman Jordan Wolf. Murray proved up to the challenge limiting Wolf to just one assist, which came on the Blue Devils' final goal with 1:11 to go in the fourth, and even more impressively just one shot, which wasn't even on goal. Murray played defense on Wolf the way he had to. He didn't throw a lot of crazy checks or try to strip him every time Wolf got the ball. Murray played defense with his feet; he stayed his Wolf and didn't give him any room to operate. He wasn't perfect and the rest of the defense deserves a lot of credit for helping on slides and recovering, but there's no denying Murray played an outstanding game.
Now - what a difference a week makes. When the Terps beat the Blue Devils Duke was at 3-2 on the season and were just outside the top 10 with a tough, but winnable game at Loyola up next. On paper it looked like Duke - 2010 national champions, makers of five of the last six NCAA Final Fours - would go into the Ridley Athletic Complex and hand the Greyhounds - who have not made the NCAA tournament field since 2008 - their first loss of the season. But there's a reason they don't play games on paper. Loyola defeated Duke, 13-8, to drop the Blue Devils to 3-3 on the season and making the Terps' victory over the Blue Devils a little less impressive.
Strength of schedule is a HUGE factor in the NCAA tournament selection and seeding process, so once your game is done with a team you need for that team to do well (which is why the Georgetown win over Harvard on Saturday is a good thing), so Duke's win over Harvard yesterday was big for Maryland.
Tracking The Firsts:
First Goals: Joe LoCascio (Marist), Charlie Raffa (Marist), David Solomon (Marist)
First Assists: Joe LoCascio (Marist), David Miller (Duke)
Past Meets Present
Director of Lacrosse Operations Fran Gormley captured a historic moment for Terp lacrosse alums, fans and families: "Coach "Bud" Beardmore stopped by the Comcast Center on Monday to formally meet Coach Tillman. They were able to get lunch at Ledo Pizza accompanied by Jimmy Beardmore '87, Ira Hochstadt '71, John Kaestner '72 and Bill Reilly '72. I've attached the picture of both coaches meeting, a truly epic moment in Maryland Lacrosse history!"
There is no TV or stream for Saturday's game at Villanova, so you're going to have to make the trip to Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium to see this top 10 matchup. Maryland starts its spring break on Friday, so there should be plenty of parking around the stadium. Tickets are available at the stadium or can be purchased in advance online or by calling the Maryland ticket office at 1-800-462-TERP (8377).
As always - "Be The Best!"