The Maryland men’s lacrosse team hasn’t lost a season opener since 1994, and won’t be looking to do so on Saturday afternoon against Navy.
Maryland is ranked No. 1 in the USILA preseason polls, while Navy lost its season opener in upset fashion to Jacksonville 12-7.
“I was shocked at [Navy’s loss],” Maryland head coach John Tillman said. “We won’t get that team…when a team wins, they usually stick with what’s working. But when they lose, they see what they can fix.”
Tillman spoke of the challenges Navy will bring, including already having a game under their belt as well as some great offensive weapons.
“Last year they put up 12 goals on us,” said Tillman. “Candidly, that should never happen. We should never give up 12 goals against anybody.”
Senior midfielder Connor Kelly, one of six returning All-Americans, agreed that won’t be the Navy the Terps see on opening day.
“We’re not going to look too much into that score right now. It’s early in the season and anything can happen,” Kelly said. “It’s a historic rivalry and they’re going to give us everything they got and we’re excited.”
Maryland will be looking to draw the positives out of the two exhibition games against Georgetown and Virginia into the early season. While Tillman noted that the Virginia high-tempo offensive game plan will prepare them well for Navy’s offensive weapons, Kelly spoke of what else he learned from the scrimmages.
“Those were huge for us because we got to learn a lot about our offense and defense,” Kelly said. “We kind of have the knowns offensively, but there are guys that are coming and filling roles to the best of their abilities.”
Navy’s top three point-scorers last season, juniors Greyson Torain and Ryan Wade and graduated senior Colin Flounlacker were all midfielders. They are also bolstered by the return of senior Casey Rees, who missed all of last season through injury. Rees scored two goals on five shots against Jacksonville.
The Terps will have to play stout defensively in the midfield to counter Navy’s strength at the same position. After losing two-time All-American short-stick defensive midfielder Isaiah Davis-Allen, as well as Nick Manis, the Terps will have a void to fill.
“We take pride, as an offensive midfield [group], to get back and play defense as well,” Kelly said. “We have a lot of guys who can fill those roles and they’re willing to do it.”
“[Kelly], Tim Rotanz and Bubba Fairman are very underrated defenders,” Tillman said about the first line midfielders. “There are times when they could come off and play all the sub games, and they’re just like, ‘We’re going to stay on.’”
Tillman mentioned that there will be more mismatching among the offensive midfielders between the first and second lines. One of the five team captains, senior midfielder Adam DiMillo, led the second-line and scored two vital goals in the title game last season.
The Terps look to have the advantage at the faceoff position, as Navy won just three of 22 contests against Jacksonville last weekend. Look for junior Austin Henningsen to lead the way in that department, with senior Will Bonaparte and freshman Justin Shockey not too far behind.
The season’s opening faceoff against Navy will be at noon tomorrow at Capital One Stadium in College Park.
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