Maryland tries to turn fortunes around

Meeting No. 1 Hopkins not easiest way for Terps to keep from falling to 5-5

College Lacrosse

April 15, 2005|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK - Brendan Healy was preparing for another chapter of the greatest rivalry in college lacrosse, and the Maryland junior midfielder frowned while recounting his team's sudden downturn.

The ninth-ranked Terrapins' 4-1 start, which included a season-opening, 13-6 rout of No. 4 Georgetown, seemed so distant.

Healy is tired of the losses that are mounting. First, there was the shocking, 7-6 defeat to then-unranked Dartmouth in Boca Raton, Fla. Then, after beating struggling North Carolina, there was the humiliating, 10-2 whipping at third-ranked Virginia and, last week, the Terps lost a late, one-goal lead at Navy and dropped a 9-8 heartbreaker.

And it gets no easier for Maryland (5-4) tonight when top-ranked Johns Hopkins, the only unbeaten (8-0) team left in Division I, comes to Byrd Stadium, where the Terps and Blue Jays will play for the 101st time.

"You look back on the season and you wonder how did this happen? How are we 5-4 right now?" Healy said. "In a way, it's embarrassing. We have so much more on the line [than Hopkins tonight], and we have to play like we do."

"We've never stopped playing hard in any game. There have been little slip-ups here and there. But here we are at 5-4," added senior defenseman Gavin Webb. "There's still a lot of season left, but we've got to get this game."

In an unusual twist, this meeting is much more about Maryland than it is Hopkins, which already has secured its 34th consecutive berth in the NCAA tournament and has beaten the Terps three straight times to extend its lead in the series to 63-36-1.

The Terps, in contrast, are fighting some self-doubt, must straighten out their shooting problems and could make their headaches disappear - and nail down a tournament berth - by knocking off the Blue Jays.

A loss would drop the Terps to 5-5 for the first time since 1994, and it would turn their April 23 trip to unranked Fairfield (8-2) into a huge deal no one envisioned after that early crushing of Georgetown.

A loss puts more pressure on Maryland to achieve a winning record and punch a ticket to the NCAAs.

The Terps also play in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament before concluding the regular season against Penn. Maryland will face either Virginia or No. 2 Duke in the ACC semifinal round. The Terps have lost to both teams already, and there is no consolation game.

"We need to win for us and for no other reason," said Maryland coach Dave Cottle. "We need to validate the work we've done. I can't remember the last time I lost three out of four games."

"Must win? I don't see that. I don't think anybody who knows anything about lacrosse would say that. We need to get to a winning record and we're in [the tournament].

"We knew we were going to go through some growing pains, with losing 30 guys over the last two years and we've got a very difficult schedule. We have a big game in front of us, and it's a great opportunity."

Maryland has encountered a variety of problems, and not in the expected places.

After their defense was depleted by the departures of All-Americans Lee Zink, Paul Gillette, Chris Passavia, Dave Wagner and goalie Tim McGinnis, the Terps have held up well at that end. Sophomore goalie Harry Alford has emerged to lead a unit that has held opponents to an average of 7.89 goals and 24.3 percent shooting.

Then again, the Terps have sprung some leaks. They allowed four extra-man scores at Navy. They will be hard-pressed to contend with the array of athletes and shooters Hopkins will bring, led by senior midfielders Kyle Harrison and Greg Peyser and freshmen Paul Rabil (midfield) and Kevin Huntley (attack).

Maryland was supposed to be anchored on offense, what with ACC Player of the Year Joe Walters back at attack and proven midfielders such as Healy and junior Bill McGlone also back. Walters (team-high 22 goals and 31 points) and McGlone (22 points) have done their part, although McGlone was slowed by a shoulder injury for several weeks.

But the Terps, who averaged 6.3 goals during their 1-3 slide, have shot poorly much of the year (24.5 percent). And for the second straight week, they might be without sophomore attackman Michael Phipps (8 goals, 6 assists), who missed the Navy game with a shin injury.

"There's a lot of pressure on us. Maryland is supposed to be a perennial power," Walters said. "With a 5-4 record, people are doubting us. The beautiful thing is we have a chance to turn that around Friday night."

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