No. 1 UM spreads scoring

Held to 1 goal, Walters is setting up others

Notebook

March 08, 2006|By GARY LAMBRECHT | GARY LAMBRECHT,SUN REPORTER

In two weeks, with back-to-back wins on the road, punctuated by a takedown of top-ranked Duke in overtime, Maryland has surged to the No. 1 ranking in the country.

And the Terps are doing it without Joe. Well, sort of.

Senior attackman Joe Walters, who has been Maryland's prime goal-scoring threat for three seasons and could become the school's all-time scoring leader, has scored one goal in 2006. But with a team-high five assists, Walters has been nowhere near invisible.

With this year's talented bunch in College Park, Walters doesn't constantly need to battle close defensemen and fight through endless double teams. He can dish off to scorers such as senior Xander Ritz, who made Duke pay with a career-high five goals, including the game-winner.

"Our game plan was to keep attacking the short sticks, and I think we were surprised all game that [Ritz] was getting one. Defenses are focusing on me as much as they can. That's leaving other guys open," Walters said.

Walters and senior midfielders Bill McGlone and Brendan Healy, last year's three top goal scorers, have combined for three goals. Ritz leads the team with nine goals. His brother, sophomore attackman Max Ritz, is second with four.

"We thought Xander Ritz was going to have a very good season, but he's even surprised us," Maryland coach Dave Cottle said. "Joe has become an outstanding passer. He's not focused solely on scoring goals, and that has helped us tremendously. [Opponents] are making it so other players have to make great plays to win. We're starting to do that."

The Terps even made the plays on an unusual trip home Saturday night. The team bus started losing speed while approaching Petersburg, Va., then had to stop. A turbo charger hose had come loose. Among those who got under the bus to fix the problem was junior defenseman Ray Megill, a mechanical engineering major.

Goals galore

While Princeton was grinding through a 6-4 victory Saturday that ended Johns Hopkins' 37-game home winning streak and left the Blue Jays tied with Syracuse for the longest such streak in NCAA Division I history, a different kind of game was unfolding in Charlottesville, Va.

Virginia and Syracuse engaged in an offensive battle royal - a 20-15 Cavaliers victory. Virginia trailed 7-5 after the first quarter, then stormed back to take a 13-8 halftime lead.

"For 20-15 to happen, both teams have to cooperate," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "Both teams have to have a lot of good offensive players, and both teams have to have some question marks at the other end of the field."

The No. 2 Cavaliers (5-0) have some growing to do on defense, where freshman Matt Kelly and second-year freshman Mike Timms start. But offensively, Matt Ward and Ben Rubeor (Loyola) and midfielders Kyle Dixon (Archbishop Spalding) and Matt Poskay lead a parade of scorers who have averaged 17.2 goals.

By the way, Virginia now holds the longest active home winning streak at 15 games.

Man-to-man Tigers

Under 19-year coach Bill Tierney, Princeton has won six national championships by relying mainly on a matchup zone defense that values positioning and takes few chances. Not anymore.

The Tigers staged a man-to-man mugging at times at Hopkins. While junior Zachary Jungers was stifling Blue Jays attackman Kevin Huntley with physical play, junior long-stick midfielder John Bennett was all over the field, forcing seven turnovers. Princeton forced the issue and seemed to surprise Hopkins, which shot 4-for-32 and committed 15 turnovers.

"We've got a bunch of athletic, confident kids that play within our system, but we can't sit back anymore," Tierney said. "We're going to have more fouls and create more turnovers."

gary.lambrecht@baltsun.com

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