Maryland lacrosse seniors in a class of their own

Through success, disappointment and tragedy, Terps have grown closer than ever before

May 25, 2011|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

COLLEGE PARK — It was in the midst of one of the most trying days in his life that a long, thin line of his Maryland lacrosse teammates appeared in front of Ryan Young.

It was April 25, and Young, the senior attackman, was at St. Mary's Church in his Manhasset, N.Y., hometown to attend memorial services for his mother, Maria, 54, who had died a week earlier of pancreatic cancer.

Young remembers looking up and seeing all those dozens of Terps — somber and in suits and ties — filing quietly into the church and thinking how fortunate he was to have teammates who had become like brothers. After beating Duke in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament final on a Sunday afternoon, the players had bused from Durham, N.C., to College Park before collecting several hours' sleep and busing another five hours in the early morning to arrive at the Long Island church. It was in that moment that a tightknit team became closer still.

"Ryan told us the one thing that really broke he and his family down was when the entire Maryland team in a single-file line came into the church," said senior defenseman Max Schmidt, Young's freshman-year roommate. "I'm getting chills talking about it."

Said senior attackman Grant Catalino: "There was a sea of Maryland players, coaches and alums in that church."

As Maryland prepared for its Final Four encounter with Duke on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium, the memory of that moment — and the theme of togetherness in general — remained on the players' minds. The unseeded Terps have an unusually large senior class of 17 players. It's a class that feels as if it has been through much together, including previous postseason disappointments and a teammate's family tragedy.

Their chemistry manifests itself in different ways. Among them is the collaboration between Young and Catalino, who combined on Catalino's goal that beat top seed Syracuse, 6-5, in overtime Sunday to push Maryland into its first final four since 2006.

Catalino and Young have entirely different looks and styles. At 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds, Catalino is about five inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than his teammate. "People say opposites attract," Young said. "Grant is laid-back and quiet, and I'm a little bit more goofy and energetic, so I think that helps us."

It seems the two have been playing together for ages. "The third spot on the attack has kind of switched over the past three years, but it seems like me and him have always been there," said Catalino, who — like Young and many of his teammates — was sporting a scruffy postseason beard Wednesday. "He probably assisted my first goal when I came here, so I guess it is kind of fitting for him to assist that [last] goal. He's pretty much the quarterback of our offense."

Young grew up on Long Island, playing point guard in basketball and quarterback in football, and it shows. "You've got to have those instinctive qualities, and I think playing a lot of sports helped — soccer, where you have to anticipate, as well as quarterback or point guard," Maryland coach John Tillman said. "He's got all that."

Young had three assists against Syracuse. With 96 in his career, he is tied with Jack Heim (1965-1967) for eighth on Maryland's career list.

Young's twin brother, Kevin, is a senior midfielder for Duke. The Blue Devils also attended the services for Maria Young. Some fans are expected to wear purple to Saturday's game — the color that symbolizes the fight against pancreatic cancer.

"We talk about [Maria Young] all the time, the courage she showed," said Tillman, whose father died of lung cancer. "If it's like a game in heat, a practice in heat, and you're tired, that's nothing. She's always with us," the coach said.

Catalino said he is fortunate to have played alongside such an instinctive player as Young. "You learn each other's tendencies — almost how much you can trust the other person," Catalino said. "In lacrosse, you take chances. If he sees me coming off the pick, he'll trust that he can get the ball there and I'll trust that he can make a good pass. As the years go on, you have a second sense of where the other guy is on the field."

Tillman, the former Harvard coach in his first year at Maryland, said he noticed quickly that his players "are so close to each other, they love each other. I know each guy would do anything for each other."

Said Schmidt: "They're your best friends now and until the day you die. I think that's one of our strengths this year."

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