While developing a defensive chemistry with senior captain and fellow defenseman Bryce Young during last year’s title-winning season and into this early season, Curtis Corley’s relationship with Young actually started beyond the constraints of a collegiate lacrosse season.
Over the last few years, Young has mentored Corley to help improve his game, starting before Corley even stepped on campus as a freshman; the two budding stars’ paths first crossed during their respective New Jersey lacrosse careers.
Young, a graduate of St. Augustine Prep., didn’t know much about Corley aside from his playing days at Shawnee other than that he was the “goon” on the opposing defense. Young said while it was great playing against him, it has been even better to play alongside him.
Corley was quick to bring up whose high school team came out on top when Shawnee deated St. Augustine Prep. 7-4 in 2014.
“Growing up I didn’t really know Bryce that much, but when I was a junior and he was a senior in high school we played each other. [It’s no big deal but] I beat him,” Corley said laughing.
“That was a tough pill to swallow,” Young said. “But we’re on to bigger and better things now.”
Among those bigger and better things involve the No. 2-ranked Terps (5-0) playing the No. 1 team in the country this Saturday in the Albany Great Danes (3-0).
Renowned for their free-flowing offensive style, Albany’s Connor Fields, last season’s NCAA leader in points, and freshman Tehoka Nanticoke, Inside Lacrosse’s No. 1 recruit, make up a challenging task to defend.
Corley said it’s games like this that made him choose to come to Maryland.
“The thing I’m looking forward to the most is the reason we come to Maryland: to play the best teams and right now they’re the best team in the country,” Corley said.
Young said he hadn’t realized Corley was going to Maryland until his senior year of high school. But it was a year later that Young went out of his way to bring Corley under his wing.
“During my senior year of high school coming into college, [Young] invited me to come play at a tournament down here in Maryland,” Corley said. “I was just really excited for it and was happy he put me under his wing. He was a kid I only met like six times before that, and he was like, ‘Yeah, come do this with me, it’s basically what it’s going to be like the next three years together.’”
Maryland head coach John Tillman has noticed Young’s leadership and versatility rub off on Corley over the past couple years.
“I think with what [Young] does and the way he approaches things, he’s a great role model for Curtis to kind of pick up how he does his business,” Tillman said.
Corley said he thought the transition to college lacrosse from high school would be easier than it was, but due to the new complexity of college offenses and defensive schemes, Young’s mentorship was as important for Corley’s development as ever.
“I really appreciate [Young’s mentorship] because coming in here as a freshman, your head is really spinning,” Corley said. “You go from playing high school ball when you’re the best athlete and you can do whatever and you’ll be fine. “Bryce was there when I was younger to lead me along and pick up my slack when I was slacking off.”
During Young’s three-game absence at the beginning of the season, Corley took over the responsibilities as the top close defender.
“Curtis has been sort of an unsung hero for us in a lot of ways,” Tillman said. “When Bryce went down, Curtis really became the experienced guy down at the starting defense and really our most vocal communicator outside of Danny [Morris] and that’s a big jump from what we asked him to do last year. And I thought Curtis did that with flying colors.”
Tillman said Corley’s evolution – becoming versatile enough to match up against stronger players, as well as shorter, quicker attackmen – has been a big reason for the team’s undefeated start to the season.
“Curtis, in my mind, is probably the best cover defenseman in the country,” Young said. “[Corley has an] unbelievable work ethic, the kid is a tank and I personally love playing with him.”
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