Terps rely on hard-shell 'D' Warrior mentality drives lacrosse team

April 06, 1996|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

COLLEGE PARK -- There's a reason the Maryland lacrosse team never wears white shorts -- it's too tough to get out the blood, mud and grass stains.

That's the mind-set on the Terps, where pulverizing hits receive more applause than goals and where defensemen are referred to as warriors.

Defense is the priority and offense a luxury. Maryland (6-1) is having its best back-to-back seasons since 1986-87 because of the resurgence of its physically imposing defense.

The Terps have held six of their seven opponents significantly under their scoring average and given up only 7 1/2 goals per game, which is fourth-best in Division I. However, Maryland is the only team among the nine best that has played against three of the top five highest-scoring offenses.

"It's a sense of pride here," sophomore defenseman Mike Bonanni said. "A lot of teams like to count up how many goals they score and not many teams like to play defense. Here, we love to play defense. You come to Maryland to play defense."

Bonanni is the newest member of the close defensive clan that includes veterans Dave LaChapelle, Paal Elfstrum and goalkeeper Brian Dougherty.

Each has a particular role. LaChapelle targets take-aways. Elfstrum anticipates slides and double teams.

Bonanni, who played on the attack in high school and had never picked up a long stick until January, is the enforcer. After fall practice, coach Dick Edell believed there was a missing ingredient and moved Bonanni from a short-stick defensive midfielder to close defense.

Bonanni, the No. 3 defenseman and the biggest question mark (( coming into this season, held this year's top scoring attackman, Virginia's Doug Knight, to one goal last Saturday.

"You tell him something once and it's done," Edell said. "We needed a physical presence. Bo has that warrior mentality but not the technical stuff yet. But he will."

This group has limited opponents to under two goals in 18 of 28 periods this season, posting six shutout quarters. The Maryland defense is also on track to record its lowest goals-per-game average in nine seasons.

But this wasn't supposed to happen. The Terps lost Dan Radebaugh, last year's National Defenseman of the Year and the most imposing player in Edell's 13-year tenure at Maryland.

Maryland returned the nation's top goalkeeper in Dougherty, but starters LaChapelle and Elfstrum weren't considered highly around the country or even in the Atlantic Coast Conference. In a preseason poll of 15 coaches from top Division I programs, no one named a Terps defenseman among the top players in the game, but three defenders from ACC schools -- Duke's Tyler Hardy, Virginia's Tommy Smith and North Carolina's Jon Fox -- were regularly mentioned.

"We definitely heard that," Dougherty said. "Dan was the best defenseman in the nation and he's not going to be replaced. When he was here, the guy he guarded would be shut down. This year, it's like everyone has to count on each other more. I think the intensity is still there, maybe not the same talent level."

That intensity feeds off Edell, who mainly coaches the defensive unit. The defense generally looks to the sidelines to see his stomping, his glares, his high-pitched howling.

"He gets so excited," Bonanni said. "He loves defense. When we get down, he yells at us to suck it up. He gets us to do anything to stop a goal. It might hurt for a second, but it's worth it to save a goal."

Risk and sacrifice aren't just pre-game chatter. They are the main objectives for Maryland.

Stop fast breaks with a leveling hit. Gamble for the extra check -- anything to allow the Terps to scrap and scramble for loose balls.

Outside the goal, Dougherty intercepts crossing passes and has decked a few attackmen for ground balls. Inside the crease, he regularly stops the toughest one-on-one shots.

"Dougherty is such a great nucleus," LaChapelle said. "He's always communicating with us. It's a great feeling knowing he is behind you."

Edell builds his teams from the defensive end, and it all originates with the goalkeeper.

"Some days you might be off shooting, but it's easier to play good defense game in and game out," Edell said. "Plus we have our ace in the hole. Brian allows us to get outshot 22-4 before 30,000 people and still lead at the end of the quarter 2-1. That's why, given the chance, always go for defense."

Edell does it without recruiting the big-name high school All-Americans. In fact, LaChapelle and Bonanni didn't even make first-team All-Metro.

Edell said he looks for athletes. The players said Edell wants people who don't quit and have fun knocking opponents off their feet.

"They always play so hard, fighting for everything out there," Edell said. "They are laborers in every sense of the word. That's why every night I say to my wife: 'It doesn't get any better than this.' "

Takedown Terps

The Maryland defense has held six of its seven opponents under their season averages:

Opponent .. .. .. .. .. ..Avg.* .. .. .. ..Vs. UM

Villanova .. .. .. .. .. .8.3 .. .. .. .. .. ..6

Duke .. .. .. .. .. .. ..15.7 .. .. .. .. .. ..6

Towson .. .. .. .. .. ...13.3 .. .. .. .. .. ..5

Cornell .. .. .. .. .. ..11.6 .. .. .. .. .. ..6

Radford .. .. .. .. .. ..11.3 .. .. .. .. .. ..2

N. Carolina .. .. .. .. .15.3 .. .. .. .. .. .17

Virginia .. .. .. .. .. .16.2 .. .. .. .. .. .11

* -- Does not include game vs. Maryland.

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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