Howley's howl helps UM make some noise

No longer silent defender turns leader as No. 5 Terps brace for No. 2 Hopkins

College Lacrosse

April 14, 2001|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Michael Howley is a sophomore majoring in criminal justice at the University of Maryland. As a rookie defenseman in a program that builds from the back, he followed the timeless advice of Teddy Roosevelt, one of the world's great policemen. Walk softly and carry a big stick, however, doesn't cut it for the Terps anymore.

"Michael is a quiet youngster, and that was appreciated last year," said Dick Edell, the Maryland coach. "He was a freshman starting with two seniors, and braggadocio wouldn't have fit in well. When he got here, he was a flat-out baby, but he's not a rookie anymore, and he has to talk more. Fortunately, his personality is different from the way he plays."

Goalie Pat McGinnis appears headed to first-team All-American status, but Howley has also played a substantial part in Maryland (8-1) allowing a nation's best 5.44 goals a game. That distinction will be tested tonight at 8 at Byrd Stadium, when No. 2 Johns Hopkins (5-2) tests the No. 5 Terps. The game will be shown on Channel 2.

Last year's meeting was a disaster for Maryland, as the Blue Jays' 20-11 romp at Homewood Field represented the most goals allowed by the Terps since 1990. It was an abnormal night for Howley, who went on to become only the third defenseman named Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year, the first since Maryland's Dan Robbins in 1991.

Howley's potential led Edell to do a jig when he won his services. He was a two-sport star at Wantagh (N.Y.) High, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound running back and linebacker who drew interest from schools ranging from Boston College to Ole Miss. Howley was a four-year starter in lacrosse, as he led an upstart that challenged the established powers in Nassau County.

"Michael was the best defenseman in high school lacrosse in 1999," Edell said. "With all of the adjustments they have to make academically and socially, I don't like to put freshmen in key roles, but he was different. He's a big, strong, aggressive athlete who was able to step in and contribute, and it helped that he had some experience around him."

Howley's talent allowed him to take chances in high school. He learned to play position defense last year, when he leaned on then-seniors Casey Connor and Jason Carrier.

"In high school, I used to go after people, throw `kayaks' and over-the-head checks," Howley said. "I was a little wild, and when I got here I tried to play the way I did in high school. Coach [Jon] Stainbrook, and Carrier and Connor showed me what defense was about at this level.

"This year is a lot different. I have to show everyone else the ropes, how Maryland plays defense. The younger guys have to listen to me and David Rose [a senior starter]. I've gotten better at that since last fall, but there's still room for improvement. It's not entirely new to me. In high school, I was made a captain when I was a junior."

Howley is a well-centered 20-year-old who gets grief from his teammates over what they call his "fan club."

Whether it's the Denver Shootout or next weekend's ACC tournament in Orlando, his parents rarely miss a Maryland game. Though divorced, they make some of those road trips together. His biggest fan on campus - and unofficial tutor - is Carrie Reinhardt. Howley gives some of the credit for his 3.1 grade-point average last semester to his girlfriend, a Monkton native who's on the Terps' swimming and diving team.

"Being around her has broadened my horizons and made my life better," Howley said. "I don't go out on weekends and drink like I used to. Being around her makes me a better person."

If Howley and the Terps hope to knock off Hopkins for only the second time in their last seven games, they must play better than they have in the last month. While the Blue Jays have healed into an NCAA contender, Maryland has scored a combined eight goals in its last two games and searches for the form it found in a 13-5 rout of Duke on March 4. Scoring goals, however, wasn't the problem against Hopkins last year.

"From the second we stepped on the field, that was an absolute debacle," Howley said. "That day, the offense played well, but the defense didn't. We all have that memory, and remember it like it was yesterday."

Team................ GA

Maryland .........5.44

Princeton........ 5.75

Dartmouth...... 6.71

Notre Dame.... 7.00

Georgetown... 7.22

Virginia ............7.22

Hopkins.......... 7.29

* From NCAA (through April 8)

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