All season, Maryland has relied on a starting blend of veterans and transfers on offense to average 11.2 goals. But when reserves begin contributing as they did in the team’s 16-10 demolition of No. 3 seed Duke in Saturday’s NCAA tournament semifinal at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., the opportunities become more frequent.
Junior midfielder Kevin Cooper registered a career-high five points on one goal and four assists, and freshman Kevin Forster chipped in two goals and one assist. Add senior Michael Shakespeare (18 goals and two assists), and the importance of the second midfield suddenly looms large for Monday’s national title game against No. 1 seed Loyola (17-1).
“I think especially at this time of the year when it gets hot out and with two games in three days, it’s real important to have two midfields,” Forster said. “Overall, it was a team effort, I’d say.”
With Forster and fellow freshman Joe LoCascio taking turns on the second midfield, the onus is on Shakespeare and Cooper to lead the way when they’re on the field. That can ramp up the pressure, but Cooper said he and Shakespeare are accustomed to it.
“We just try to get out there and play hard,” he said. “Run the offense, be unselfish, and make plays when they present themselves.”
If the second midfield is producing, that unit can wear down opponents’ defensive midfields. And the first midfield can be fresh and well-rested for its runs.
Senior attackman Joe Cummings said the starters rely on the guys on the sideline to turn their opportunities into plays.
“When guys are stepping up and making plays and not only just big plays, but making smart plays, that is huge for our offense,” he said. “Not only that, it’s huge for our team. That goes to show that this is not a one-man show on this team. It’s a full team effort. Everyone is for everyone, and it takes everyone’s contributions in order for Maryland to have success.”
*Terps freshman defenseman Goran Murray continued to burnish his reputation as a shutdown defender with his job against Duke sophomore attackman Jordan Wolf. For the third time this season, Wolf did not score a goal. He finished with four assists this spring against Murray and Maryland. Coach John Tillman spread credit to Murray and his defensive teammates. “What I’ll tell you is, he had 47 teammates helping him, getting him ready all week, and Goran would be the first one to tell you that,” Tillman said. “We never do anything alone. And Goran may have been the guy on him a lot, but his teammates always had his back, and I think that’s one of the things that changed with this group. We did a better job of having everybody’s back, including me, the coaches and the players.”
*For the second consecutive season, Maryland (12-5) will play in the NCAA tournament final as an unseeded team. And for the second straight year, the Terps will have just one day to prepare for their opponent. Last spring, it was No. 7 seed Virginia. On Monday, it will be Loyola. Tillman said the time leading up to the 1 p.m. start time will be spent wisely. “Well, it’s really about management right now,” he said. “I think you have a fatigued group. They spend a lot of energy, and they play with a lot of heart. So we have a tired group. We have to be sensitive to that. We told them to get off their feet, go spend some time with their family. Give them a big hug and appreciate their family’s support coming up here. Enjoy that time with them, and then the coaches would break down the film. Get some sleep tonight. Make sure they stretch and get the treatment they needed. We have some guys banged up. So get some rest, and then Monday we need to do a good job with our focus. We have to play an opponent we’ve not yet seen before. It’s going to take a lot of mental focus and mental energy just to stay dialed in. We can’t give them the typical week’s preparation, so we’re going to have to have certain keys and simple points to hit home. They're the No. 1 seed for a reason, and they’re a terrific team. There are some things that having watched last week that they do very, very well if we don’t take away from them, they can get you.”