January 30, 2014

#LMRanks: No. 7 Maryland Terrapins (MD1)

by Patrick Stevens | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | College Preview 2014

Mike Chanenchuk is one of just a few returners on Maryland's offense. The Terps will feature several freshmen. (John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com)

Previous: No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions

Vitals

2013 Record: 10-4 (2-1 ACC)
Coach: John Tillman (fourth year)
Record at Maryland: 35-15

Power ratings (scale of 1-5)

Offense: 3
Defense:
4
Goalkeeping:
4
Faceoff:
4

Top Returner

G Niko Amato
The senior has started 50 consecutive games for the Terrapins, and while his goals against average went up with a revamped defense in front of him, he had a career-best .594 save percentage. Bottom line: He saw plenty more shots and saved a greater fraction of them last spring. Amato will again anchor the defense, which figures to be Maryland's strength from start to finish.

X-Factor

Freshmen on attack
The Terps didn't bring in a heralded class of attackmen — from Matt Rambo to Tim Rotanz to Connor Cannizzaro — just to stand on the sideline and watch. Those three project to be career-long contributors, so only two questions remain.

One, will Tillman go all in (much like former coach Dave Cottle did in 2008 with Grant Catalino, Travis Reed and Ryan Young) and start three freshmen? And are they ready for such a large role? If the answer to both questions is yes, Maryland could find itself playing on Memorial Day weekend.

Tournament Trend

2009 Quarterfinals
2010
Quarterfinals
2011
Runner-up
2012
Runner-up
2013
First round

What's new?

Two starters on both attack and midfield graduated for Maryland, as did longtime defensive midfield stalwarts Jesse Bernhardt and Landon Carr. The faces are different in many spots for the Terrapins, and only time will tell if they can be as effective as the players they replace, many of whom played major roles in Maryland making consecutive Memorial Day appearances.

Telling Number

42.6
Percent of Maryland's goals returning from last season (69 of 162). Five of the Terrapins' top seven scorers are gone, with midfielder Mike Chanenchuk and part-time starting attackman Jay Carlson the most established offensive weapons back this spring.

Behind Enemy Lines

What rival coaches say

"Baby Terps are huge talents but leadership and offensive identity yet to be determined... How good can the freshmen be early?"

— Rival coaches

"Baby Terps are huge talents but leadership and offensive identity yet to be determined. Defense is legit... How quickly does that attack grow up?... How good can the freshmen be early? Can they peak at the right time?... Return of entire D except Carr & Bernhardt... Team loses a ton to graduation especially on offense, but they still will have some nice options to pick from with Chanenchuk, Carlson and the loaded freshmen class... Even though players like Rambo and Cannizzaro are freshmen they will still be able to score some goals and help lead the way offensively. They are that good."

"Defensively Amato between the pipes is not a bad place to start as well as with Murray, Ikeda and Ehrhardt. This end of the field was the engine that drove this team to two straight national championship games... This team's issue last year was with a major decline in offensive production as the season went on. They seemed to be clicking on all cylinders in a couple games early and looked unstoppable, then there were other games where they struggled to get over five or six goals... They are solid at the faceooff X with Raffa returning which will be a nice place to start."

"The Terrapin coaching staff will have those boys stewing, steaming over the loss last year in the playoffs to the Big Red. The graduation hit will be significant and many will say they cannot do it, but I think they overcome it with pure passion, and very good goalie play with Niko Amato. Offensively, the team has not had to rely on one single player under Tillman's schemes and so the Terrapins will simply reload, starting with Matt Rambo. Last ACC go around will be a sweet one for the Terps."

"The Terps lost a lot to graduation. They may struggle with a lot of new faces in critical roles. Goalie Niko Amato will anchor this team and help them maintain success... They've got some really talented freshmen, but freshmen are still going to make freshmen mistakes. You just can't teach experience. I like what they have done with their schedule. I think they're going to surprise some people and win some big ones. But how quickly [those freshmen] come along will determine how good they will be."

"The obvious thing is who will go on attack, and for them it may just be you bite the bullet with the freshmen. I don't know if they have anyone with the potential of Rambo, Rotanz and Cannizzaro. It would be scary to go into a schedule like we all play with three young kids playing on the attack, but that might be the best way to go. But how fast will those young guys grow up? They might decide to let those kids play and suffer the consequences early. If they stay healthy, they could be a factor."

2013 Recap

In a Nutshell: Maryland looked very much like a team that brought back the key components of consecutive runs to the national title game, rattling off six straight double-digit scoring performances to rise to No. 1 in the country. Even after stuttering with a home loss to North Carolina, the Terrapins recovered to reach 8-1.

Then the wheels came off the wagon, at least offensively. Maryland never got traction in a 7-4 loss to Johns Hopkins, barely edged Yale 8-7 and was blasted by Virginia 13-6 in the ACC tournament. After pummeling Colgate in the regular-season finale, the Terps were humbled 16-8 on their home field by Cornell in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.

Within a month, Maryland went from No. 1 to one-and-done. It averaged nine goals in its final eight games, and just 7.71 goals in that stretch when the Colgate rout was removed. The Terps had a lot of useful pieces reliant on each other for success; when a couple players went into slumps, it doomed the rest of the offense as well as Maryland's postseason hopes.

High Point: A week after exacting a little payback for its 2012 national title game loss to Loyola, the Terps throttled Duke 16-7 in Durham to improve to 4-0. At that point, Maryland was averaging 16.8 goals per game and very much appeared destined to make it three final four appearances in as many seasons under Tillman.

Low Point: The blowout loss to Cornell on May 12 at Byrd Stadium was a humiliating finish to the year. It wasn't just the margin or the fact it came at home. Maryland was decidedly outworked by the Big Red, getting demolished 43-29 on groundballs, and it earned its early exit with a stunningly lethargic performance.

2014 Preview

Best Case: Maryland's reconstructed offense — through freshmen on attack and organizational players who waited their turn in the midfield — proves more than adequate, allowing the Terps to fall back on their historical identity as a blue-collar, defense-first team. With goalie Niko Amato enjoying another solid season and Michael Ehrhardt and Goran Murray turning in All-America-worthy seasons, Maryland grinds out a series of low-scoring victories, surprises a couple teams along the way and threatens to make a deep tournament run. Along the way, it also proves formidable in its final run through the deeper-than-ever ACC and contends for a conference tournament title.

Worst Case: It takes a while for the freshman-laden attack to get its bearings, which is bad enough on its own. Toss in the departure of the transition goals the departed Jesse Bernhardt and Landon Carr could provide, and it is a chore to create much of any offense for this team. While this bunch doesn't become the first Maryland team to suffer a losing season, it could wind up as the first edition of the Terps to miss the NCAA tournament since 2002.

Self-Examination: John Tillman on ...

G Niko Amato (Sr.)
"He's one of the guys everybody knows about and talks about. You do get a lot of visibility and maybe too much credit and too much blame, but that's the nature of playing goalie. He's done a really good job with his leadership. That's improved every year. We had a veteran group when he was a freshman and we didn't ask much of him because we had a lot of good seniors. Every year, he's wanted more. He's also evolved so that he does lead well. He loves the big moment. I think he's going to have a big year. I'm excited because he knows this is his last go-round. He'll be an important member of our team."

D Michael Ehrhardt (Sr.)
"Michael has worked very, very hard to become the player that he is. He certainly has some gifts in terms of size, but his dedication and work ethic and commitment has helped him become the player he is. He's worked so hard to get to where he's gotten. That's a good thing for young players to see. He's been a very active captain, a great guy who has gotten guys on board. He has the ability to play stronger, but he's worked on footwork as well. He gives us some versatility down there and a very good defender."

FO Charlie Raffa (Jr.)
"He was a little bit of a late bloomer in terms of lacrosse; he'd been a football and lacrosse player in high school. An injury really set him back as a freshman. His first lacrosse [practice at Maryland] was that spring. Last year, he battled some injuries and was a little less consistent than we would like. Maturity-wise, he's really evolved. We need Charlie to have a good year to go where we want to go. Charlie dedicated himself to put himself in a good position."

Lacrosse Magazine will continue its 2014 college lacrosse preview throughout January and into February, with team-by-team breakdowns of the top teams in NCAA Division I, II and III men's and women's lacrosse. Follow the countdown at LaxMagazine.com/LMRanks and on twitter at #LMRanks.


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