What an opening week for the Terps, but it's just a start and there's so much more to go in the 2013 season, beginning with a game just up the road in Baltimore on Saturday.
We will preview the game at Loyola (Can we call this one a rematch? Read on and find out.), including some interesting ranking stats to go along with it, the historic start of Kevin Cooper and rewinding the Terps' win at Hartford.
Let's get to it.
Is It A Rematch?
Last March, the blog previewing the Terps' game vs. Virginia was titled "Don't Call It A Rematch", referring to the "rematch" of the 2011 NCAA title game. The premise was that the Terps and Cavaliers had so much turnover from the teams that took the field at M&T Bank Stadium in 2011 to the teams that played at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium in 2012 that it would be disingenuous to call the game a rematch.
So, what about this year's game between the Terps and the Greyhounds?
Let's look at some of the figures:
• Maryland returns eight of 10 starters (losing only Joe
Cummings on attack and Drew Snider on the first midfield) from last season's
title game. Loyola also returns eight of 10 starters from last Memorial Day
with only attackman Eric Lusby and defender Dylan Grimm gone.
• While all of the starters are important, the fact that both teams return their starting goalies shouldn't be glossed over
• The Terps return their top long pole (and that they happen to be regarded as the top two long poles in the nation shouldn't be overlooked) and their top short-stick defensive midfielder.
The main difference in the two teams figures to be at the faceoff X, where Maryland returns its top duo of Charlie Raffa (7-of-9 vs. Loyola last season) and Curtis Holmes (5-of-6), while Loyola graduated faceoff specialist J.P. Dalton (younger brother of former Terps' bull-dodger Will Dalton).
So, while I don't really believe any game that doesn't take place in the same season deserves to be called a rematch, this Maryland-Loyola game certainly looks more deserving of the "rematch" tagline than the 2012 Maryland-Virginia game did.
To say the defending national champions are a talented team would be to completely sell the Greyhounds short.
This is as talented team as there is in the country with All-Americans at every position.
While most people remember Eric Lusby's historic NCAA tournament run, Mike Sawyer, who was a 2012 Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, spearheaded Loyola's offense most of the season. All Sawyer did last season was finish with 52 goals and 10 assists. (For what it's worth - the last time a Maryland player had 52 goals in a season was 1991 when Mark Douglas scored 52.)
The Greyhounds also bring back their offensive catalyst in Justin Ward, who had 31 assists last season.
The newcomer to the starting attack unit (based upon the starters from the season-opener at Delaware) is sophomore Nikko Pontrello. He played in 17 of Loyola's 19 games last season and finished with four goals and six assists.
The entire first midfield of Davis Butts (21-14=35), Sean O'Sullivan (16-11=27) and Chris Layne (11-14=25) also return.
Joining Reid Acton, who changed his number from 27 to 45 (which many Canadian lacrosse players wear (including the Terps' Bryan Cole) to honor Jamieson Kuhlmann, who died from an on-field collision in 2008), and Joe Fletcher at close defense is senior T.J. Harris.
The Greyhound defensive midfield is one of the best in the nation. Do-everything long pole Scott Ratliff is mentioned along with Terp Jesse Bernhardt as the two best long poles in the nation. Watching those two go for groundballs from the wings on faceoffs could be worth the price of admission alone.
Only time will tell if short-stick superman Josh Hawkins, who missed the Delaware game and will be out at Towson on Tuesday (according to the Baltimore Sun), will play, but when he's on the field he's a game-changer simply because the Greyhounds trust him enough that they don't slide to him when he's one-on-one with a ball-carrier.
Those defenders can make life easy for goalie Jack Runkel, who uses excellent positioning and his big 6-foot-3, 240-lb. frame to make the target small for opposing shooters.
As I mentioned above, the biggest factor in the game could be the faceoff X. The Greyhounds struggled in their season-opener at Delaware, winning just 7-of-21 draws. But then again, the Terps dominated faceoffs last May, but Loyola still won the game.
One other factor to consider is the home field advantage. This will be Loyola's first home game of the season and emotions will certainly be high. The Greyhounds will feed off a certainly packed crowd (Buy your tickets early!), so the Terps will have to match that emotion, while maintaining their composure.
No. 1 vs. No. 1?
Something weird happened when the polls were released on Monday morning.
The latest Inside Lacrosse media poll came out and there were the Greyhounds sitting on the top line. That wasn't a surprise considering Loyola is the defending champs and they won their season-opener (sure it was close and the Greyhounds won it with a goal with 4.4 seconds left, but a win is a win).
What was a surprise was seeing Maryland jump over the Greyhounds to take over the top spot in the USILA Coaches' Poll. The voting was close with the Terps getting five first-place votes and a total of 208 point to the Greyhounds' four first-place votes and 206 points.
There's a certain pride that goes with being the No. 1 team in the country and in this case both teams enter into this Saturday's game with a No. 1 ranking (although the Terps will be listed in game notes and releases as the No. 2-ranked team since I go with the media poll - something about just 12 people voting in the coaches' poll doesn't seem right).
It got me thinking ... Has there ever been a No. 1 vs. No. 1 game?
Now, finding these polls to research this is nearly impossible. Even the source of the media poll only has archives going back to 2009 on its website.
But, I did find one similar meeting (but not an exact match in terms of split No. 1s) and it wasn't that long ago.
It was just two years ago that Syracuse was No. 1 in the country in the media poll (the Orange were coming off of back-to-back NCAA titles after all). But the coaches' poll had the Orange tied with Virginia for the top spot on Feb. 28 with 175 points apiece (UVa. got five first-place votes to Syracuse's four).
The two met in the Carrier Dome on Friday, March 4, and the Orange pulled out a 12-10 win in front of nearly 15,000 of the home faithful.
The Orange's run at the top of the poll lasted until a loss to Cornell on April 12. They would go on to be the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament (yep, it's that Syracuse team that Maryland beat in the NCAA quarterfinals).
Virginia's season hit some bumps along the way (including the suspensions of the Bratton brothers), but all was well that ended well for the Wahoos (we won't go into that memory for Terp fans - too painful).
How will this Saturday pan out? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain - the season isn't over regardless of which team comes out on top. It's only February and there's a long way to go before Memorial Day.
Last week I wrote about Kevin Cooper's switch after the Terps' season-opening win over Mount St. Mary's (which bounced back with a 12-11 win over then-No. 18 Bucknell on Saturday).
Cooper was impressive in his starting debut at attack with six points on three goals and three assists vs. the Mount. He proved it wasn't just beginner's luck (Can a senior really be called a beginner?) with a five-point outing in Maryland's 16-3 win at Hartford.
The 11 total points in the first two games got me thinking again (and that usually ends in research for me) - Where does the 11 points rank in terms of scoring in the Terps' first two games of a season?
Let me preface this by saying that I do not have file cabinets full of box scores from which to research these questions that pop into my head. What I found out is that game-by-game stats are only easily accessible dating back to 1998. So, that's as far back as my research can go with this one.
But, let this one marinate in your brain for a bit: Cooper's 11 points in the team's first two games is tied for the top output by any Terp since 1998. The only other Terp to rack up 11 points in the first two games was Mike Phipps back in 2007. He had a goal and two assists vs. Bellarmine in the opener and then lit up Vermont with eight points on four goals and four assists in the next game (that's still the last time any Maryland player has totaled eight points in a game).
As a matter of fact, there have only been four times during that time span that a Maryland player has totaled at least 10 points in the first two games of a season. Nine points in the first two games has been reached on four occasions. That's only a total of eight times in the last 16 seasons.
Here's the list:
11 - Kevin Cooper (2013: 3-3=6 vs. Mount St. Mary's, 3-2=5 at Hartford)
11 - Michael Phipps (2007: 1-2=3 vs. Bellarmine, 4-4=8 vs. Vermont)
10 - Grant Catalino (2011: 2-2=4 vs. Detroit, 5-1=6 vs. Georgetown)
10 - Will Yeatman (2009: 1-3=4 vs. Presbyterian, 2-4=6 vs. Air Force)
9 - Ryan Young (2011: 3-1=4 vs. Detroit, 2-3=5 vs. Georgetown)
9 - Grant Catalino (2010: 2-4=6 at Bellarmine, 1-2=3 at Georgetown)
9 - Joe Walters (2004: 3-0=3 at Georgetown, 4-2=6 at Duke)
9 - Dan LaMonica (2001: 2-3=5 vs. Air Force, 2-2=4 at Denver)
After the weirdness of seeing snow banks lining the field wore off, the Terps put this one out of reach early, scoring just 1:05 into the game and opening up a 4-0 lead at the 7:01 mark.
It would be easy to focus on the offense (and we will shortly), but for me the most impressive thing about this game was the Maryland defense, which didn't allow a 6-on-6 goal until 5:56 was left on the clock in the third quarter. The only goal prior to that scored by Hartford was on the extra-man during a :30 holding penalty on Goran Murray.
After that extra-man goal, Maryland's defense kept Hartford off the board for the next 25:37, including shutting out the Hawks for the entire second quarter (Maryland's first scoreless quarter this season).
The reserves played the entire fourth quarter and played well, allowing just two Hartford goals, both of which came early in the quarter before the Terps got into the flow of things (it's not easy being on the sidelines in 30-degree weather and then being asked to go into the game and be sharp).
Michael Ehrhardt looked great, scooping up a career-high six groundballs. Murray's stat line doesn't jump out at you (in truth there's nothing to it), but then you look at how his match-up did. Murray held Hartford's top attackman Kevin O'Shea without a point and four of his seven shots weren't even on goal.
Niko Amato turned in another terrific performance, stifling the Hawks whenever they did get a shot on cage. He finished with eight saves in just 45 minutes of work. The sledding didn't get any easier for Hartford when Kyle Bernlohr came in in the fourth, as the sophomore turned away four Hawk shots.
The offense did its job too, shooting over 35 percent through the first three quarters. Owen Blye paced the attack, scoring a career-best five goals. John Haus gave the Terps an early scare, going down to the turf on the game's first possession, but he just had the wind knocked out of him and he responded with a three-point effort on a goal and two assists.
Persistence paid off for Billy Gribbin, who was the victim of Hartford goalie Frank Piechota guessing correctly on several point-blank looks by Gribbin. The senior finally got one to go, converting on a feed from Joe LoCascio near the end of the third.
With the elder Gribbin having a rough afternoon, the younger brother scored the game's final goal in what could be the widest-open look I've seen in nine seasons of Terrapin men's lacrosse. Brendan Saylor hit Bobby Gribbin with a pass in the middle of the attack box. Bobby turned toward the goal and probably expected to be covered or get checked. Instead, he was shocked to find that there wasn't anyone between him and reserve Hartford goalie Dan Zenevitch. Zenevitch proved to be no Piechota and couldn't prevent the younger Gribbin from scoring the Terps' 16th goal.
With the game in the books, the team headed to the postgame tailgate (which is always top notch thanks to the generosity of the Maryland parent group). Usually there is some local fare at the tailgate and this was no exception as genuine New England clam chowder was among the selections (as were some boxes of Dunkin Donuts, which I believe is one of the four major food groups in the northeast).
Not Quite The 1000th Game
On Sunday I tweeted out that Saturday's game at Loyola would be the program's 1,000th game. But, the program is not quite there yet.
That was based upon figuring out the program's winning percentage for the weekly game notes, for which the all-time games played added up to 999. Great! That mean's the next game is No. 1,000.
Since it was going to be such a big milestone I started researching the other milestone games for the program. The problem was things just weren't adding up. So, I put every season's record into an Excel spreadsheet and found out that in actuality Saturday's game at Loyola will be No. 993 for the Terps.
Somewhere along the way - in the mid-90's from what I can figure - there was an error in keeping the all-time record.
So, based upon the game-by-game listings, the correct official all-time record for the Terps is 739-249-4 (.747).
That means that the official 1,000th game in Maryland men's lacrosse history will be on April 5 when the Terps play at Navy.
Last week was a great week for the Maryland athletics teams with the men's basketball team beating Duke, the women's hoops team routing Virginia, the No. 4 women's lax team going up to Syracuse and cruising to a 19-11 win over the No. 2-ranked Orange in the Carrier Dome, the 18th-ranked gymnastics team scoring the seventh-best total in school history in wins over West Virginia and Rutgers, the wrestling team topping No. 20 Wyoming at the NWCA/Cliff National Duals in Columbia, Mo., and the softball team getting out to a 3-1 start.
But none of that will compare for Terps' lacrosse fans if things go well for Maryland Saturday in Baltimore.
I mentioned it earlier, but I wholeheartedly encourage fans to get their tickets early (you can click here to order online and the tickets will be waiting for you at will call). This will be Loyola's home opener, but I expect to see plenty of red and black in the stands.
If you absolutely can't make it to the game, it will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network, so check your local listings. As always, updates will be going out on Twitter and Facebook, so "Follow" and "Like" to get all of the info sent to you wherever you are.
I hope to see you all at the Ridley Athletic Complex, but until then - Be The Best!