As Others Ascend, Terps Encounter Turbulence


April 18, 2009|By MIKE PRESTON

There are a lot of questions surrounding Maryland's troubling season, and there haven't been any quick-fix solutions, but all the problems might be cured in time for the team to make a successful playoff run.

If it were easy, Maryland wouldn't be 7-5 and ranked No. 15 in The Baltimore Sun's Top 20 poll. Instead, injuries and the lack of team chemistry have caused the Terps to falter at times, and Maryland is also dealing with an issue it has no control over.

It's called parity, and one of the most balanced and competitive fields in recent years has traditional second-tier favorites such as Georgetown and Maryland moving down a notch and third-tier teams such as UMBC, Loyola and Hofstra moving up. And others, such as Harvard, Hofstra, Villanova and St. John's, are closing the gap.

With the growth of the sport and the increased number of outstanding recruits available from coast to coast, the face of lacrosse has changed. Virginia and Syracuse are still favorites, but when they don't bring their A games, they can lose as well.

Need proof?

Check out Johns Hopkins. The Blue Jays are rebuilding on offense this season and are only one game over .500.

"This is one of the most balanced fields I've seen in quite awhile," Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "Anybody can win this thing."

That's a positive for Maryland. The Terps have the talent but haven't lived up to expectations, some of them unrealistic. During the past two seasons, Maryland has signed some of the nation's top recruits, but critics need to remember that attackmen Travis Reed, Grant Catalino and Ryan Young are only sophomores. The best is still to come.

From last season's team, the Terps lost their best faceoff player in Will Dalton and their best defenseman in Joe Cinosky. It would have been an easier transition replacing Cinosky except the Terps have been shuffling defensemen Brett Schmidt (hamstring) and Ryder Bohlander (concussion) because of injuries.

An additional setback for Maryland was the injury to long-stick midfielder Brian Farrell, who hasn't played since the third game of the season because of two broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Farrell has been one of the keys to Maryland's transition game the past two seasons.

But not all the losses can be attributed to injuries and inexperience. Some of the blame has to go to Maryland coach Dave Cottle. One of the reasons the Terps' offense has struggled is that Catalino, Reed and fourth attackman Will Yeatman are too much alike. All three are great shooters and finishers, but none is an innovator or can create from behind the goal like Young.

It's the same problem at midfield. Dan Groot, Jeff Reynolds and Jeremy Sieverts play hard, hustle and will get ground balls, but the Terps don't have a consistent scorer in the first group. UMBC has two in Kyle Wimer and Peet Poillon, and Syracuse has three or four.

But Maryland doesn't have a midfielder - not one - who scares you.

Maryland's defense has struggled, but it has gotten better. The strength, bulk and power are there, but this group could use more speed.

Forgive me for the pessimism, and it's not all gloom and doom for Maryland. The Terps have quality wins over Duke and North Carolina this season, and they lost a seven-overtime epic to Virginia. They came within a save in the final second of tying Hopkins and sending that game into overtime.

In this era of parity, teams aren't usually far away from turning their seasons around. If Maryland beats Pennsylvania and Yale, and wins at least one game in the ACC tournament, it should get into the NCAA tournament. If not, these Terps might end up flat on their backs with no place to go.

"We have right now what looks to be two wins against the field," Cottle said. "I don't think any team has not made the tournament with three wins against the field. So if we could get three wins against the field, that would increase our chances. I think there's a lot of games left to be played. Hopefully, we can get on a little bit of a roll here. But obviously, the more games we win in the ACC tournament, the better."

Listen to Mike Preston on Mondays from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Fox Sports (1370 AM).

MARYLAND (7-5) @ PENN (3-7)

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