Senior midfielder Connor Kelly’s career high six goals were instrumental in Maryland’s 13-12 win at Penn State on Sunday night, but this wasn’t the only time fans saw a career performance from the senior in 2018.
Kelly first set a career high in points in the second game of the season, a 13-7 win against Marist in College Park. The midfielder’s balanced eight points entailed four goals and four assists and featured fellow Terp Jared Bernhardt’s career-best seven points as well.
Two and a half weeks later, Kelly broke that career performance with an impressive 10-point outing against then-No. 6 Notre Dame. The Easton, Connecticut, native became the first Terp to produce 10 points in a single game since Bob Boneillo did it in 1979. It was a visionary afternoon for Kelly, dishing seven assists in the 12-10 win over the Irish.
Sunday night was another exemplary performance from the senior leader, this time on the goalscoring front. The last time a Terps put six goals in the back of the net was the most Grant Catalino’s sharp-shooting effort against UMBC in 2011. Kelly’s six goal performance surpassed his five-goal game against Ohio State in last season’s Big Ten tournament championship.
Six to one, half a dozen to the other
Kelly’s 46 goals last season were good for eighth nationally, and first among midfielders. Either way you put it, Kelly has not only become the most prolific goal-scoring midfielder in the nation, but in Maryland history. Legendary middie Frank Urso was the only other Terp to score over 40 goals in a single season.
Kelly has also found a lot of success playing Penn State during his career. After that performance, Kelly has scored 18 goals over his last four games against the Nittany Lions.
The lethal shot on the run, accurate skip passes and the flowing No. 1 jersey look all too familiar in the red and whites for Maryland. Kelly’s game this season has, at times, exactly emulated 2013 graduate Mike Chanenchuk, who now plays professionally for the Charlotte Hounds with another No. 1 jersey-wearer, Matt Rambo.
However, never has Kelly’s release resembled Chanenchuk’s snappy shot on the run quite like this year. Whether or not Kelly has watched some old film on the former Terrapin, their shot release points are strikingly similar. Just watch these two clips: the first is Kelly’s first goal Sunday night, the second is Chanenchuk against Johns Hopkins in 2013.
Timeliness of his goals
Kelly always seemed to take Nittany Lions defenders to the rack after Penn State’s offense had just garnered some momentum. To start the game, Kelly answered a 2-0 run from the Nittany Lions.
His second goal also came in response to another 2-0 Nittany Lion spurt, this time a time and room step down bouncer assisted by Bernhardt.
Kelly completed the first half hat trick on his third shot of the game, a high bouncer seemingly out of nothing but simple Terrapin ball movement around the outside of a zone defense. This long range effort provides a warning to all future teams that want to play zone against Kelly and the Terps.
Still, no goal was quite like Kelly’s fifth. The usually reserved, lead-by-example midfielder traded humility for an “in your face” moment after he let it fly knowing a hit from the slide was imminent. After dislodging the ball, Penn State short stick defensive midfielder bounced off the onrushing Kelly.
Maryland had taken its first lead of the game at 9-8 before getting scored on twice in quick succession, but Kelly’s timely goal tied it back up at 10. The hype was well-deserved after a play like that.
Kelly’s sixth and final goal was Maryland’s icing on the cake. After retaking the lead through a couple of Logan Wisnauskas goals on the fast break, Mac O’Keefe answered to cut the lead to one. Taking some time off the clock, Kelly stepped up with a goal on the run down the right alley with just 3:13 left in the contest.
An assortment of dodges
All Connor Kelly highlight tapes should start out with a right to left split dodge, rollback to his favored right hand and quick sidearm shot. After making a habit of executing the rollback and rip during his first three seasons, that move has to be top of the opposing team’s scouting report each week. Still, stopping it is much easier said than done.
Kelly’s career-best setting sixth goal of the night showed his strength and will to get to the cage. With two defenders draped all over him, his shot required some luck as it bounced off senior midfielder Tripp Traynor before getting past sophomore goalie Colby Kneese.
They can’t all be highlight-reel plays.
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